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New Baxter clinic expansion billed as an answer to pressing needs

An aerial shot of the Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Clinic in Baxter -- administrators and staffers hosted an open house Thursday to commemorate the opening of a 20,000 square foot expansion. Submitted Photo / Essentia Health 1 / 6
LPNs Tasha Weinrich and Alyssa Kramer create sundaes at the Cherry Berry frozen yogurt table Thursday, June 28, during the Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Baxter Clinic Open House. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video2 / 6
The ribbon was cut Thursday, June 28, during the open house for the expanded and renovated Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Baxter Clinic. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video 3 / 6
William Sell looks at the fish in the new 140-gallon aquarium Thursday, June 28, during the open house to celebrate the newly expanded and renovated Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Baxter Clinic. The aquarium, designed by United Aquarium of Baxter, "is the star attraction of the new pediatrics waiting room," according to Wendy Davidson, operations manager-pediatrics, OB-GYN, family medicine. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video 4 / 6
William Sell looks at the fish in the new 140-gallon aquarium Thursday, June 28, during the open house to celebrate the newly expanded and renovated Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Baxter Clinic. The aquarium, designed by United Aquarium of Baxter, "is the star attraction of the new Pediatrics waiting room" according to Wendy Davidson, Operations Manager - Pediatrics, OB-GYN, Family Medicine. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video 5 / 6
Bill Palmer, the operations leader for Essentia Health in the central Minnesota market, speaks Thursday, June 28, during the Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Baxter Clinic open house to celebrate the newly expanded and renovated clinic. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video 6 / 6

BAXTER—Chatting with folks around the open house Thursday, June 28, at Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Clinic in Baxter, Mayor Darrel Olson said he was appreciative of the "fantastic" expansion at the site.

Amenities aside, the addition—a substantial add-on to the relatively new clinic opened in 2012—represents an answer to pressing areas of need, Olson said. These are needs coming to forefront, he noted, that look to remain a focal point for health care in the Brainerd lakes area for decades.

"I've just noticed over the years there's more white-haired people—like me, except they have hair—so I would start visiting with them, curious," Olson said, stopping to shake hands or flash a quick wave as he took part in the event showcasing live music and frozen yogurt sundaes. "We were catering more to (the) young family. That was who was coming—the trails, the ball fields, so forth—so all of sudden we have this other demographic. In talking with them, we'd ask them what brought them here. They said 'medical.'"

Billed at $7.7 million, the 20,000-square-foot expansion features the addition of 32 exam rooms—now 64,000 square feet and 80 rooms in total—along with an open concept featuring warm colors and aesthetics, large glass windows to bring in natural light, and parking spaces wrapped around the building in such a way to provide convenience for elderly, handicapped or ailing commuters. Urgent care now has its own entrance at the southern end of the clinic.

"The original intent from the start is we wanted a clinic that's welcoming and warm and bright and cheery," said Bill Palmer, the operations leader for Essentia Health in the central Minnesota market. "If you look at a lot of our waiting areas, they're close to windows and that natural light. The open spaces—they're cheery and bright."

Describing Brainerd/Baxter as a burgeoning medical hub for rural communities across the Brainerd lakes area, Peter Dunphy, a family practice doctor at Essentia Health, said the new expansion was built to provide health care access for country folks, help for the elderly, as well as in preparation for the anticipated upward trends in population.

"We're trying to bring care closer to home and expand services," said Dunphy. "What we're finding is our remarkable growth. I've been part of this medical community since 1981, so I've been here a long time, and our remarkable growth is a sign we need to expand to meet the needs of our community."

Dunphy said the new facilities offer internal care—or, as he put it, specialized care for adults, a boon for Crow Wing County's aging population—alongside internal medicine, expansions in urgent care, pediatrics, obstetrician/gynecologist, physical therapy and family medicine. There is also empty space ready for further additions, such as possible expansions in radiology.

To staff the new facilities, Dunphy said 30-40 new employees—ranging from pharmacists and nurses, to specialized medical practitioners—will be brought in to run the site that is characterized as something of a one-stop shop for primary care.

However, the clinic and its expansion are hardly the final word, Palmer said—in fact, they're part of a series of planned expansions by Essentia Health.

"This building—we designed it from the start to have multiple expansions," said Palmer, who noted the clinic built in 2012, the expansion completed in 2018 and future initiatives can all be traced back to meetings in 2009. "Even from where we're at today, we have plans for the future to meet these needs. We'll continue to grow here."

For more photos go to https://bit.ly/2tSrGf9

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