WALKER -- Seeing a new hospital built in central Cass County is pretty unlikely any time soon, Health and Human Services Director Dorothy Opheim told the county board Tuesday.
The perceived need for improved health care in central Cass County has risen in many public meeting discussions and, most recently, at county Public Health Advisory Committee meetings.
Opheim contacted the Minnesota Department of Health rural health and primary care office and the facility and provider compliance management office to determine whether there might be something the county could do.
She found there currently is a statewide moratorium on construction of hospitals and nursing homes. The state no longer has a formal certificate of need process.
These state offices have no control over urgent care or clinic facilities.
Because of limited staff, the office of rural health rarely meets with groups to share information or tools or to assist with an assessment. The local community first must provide demographic information before that office will consider evaluating the community needs, Opheim said.
That office suggested a large neighboring hospital or health care corporation be contacted for information on facility cost guidelines and possibly asked to do a needs assessment for this area, Opheim said.
Cass County Health and Human Services Department does not have the time, nor the funding to be a facilitator or the driving force for as large a project as this would be, Opheim said.
She suggested communities within the county need to do more on their own if they see the need.
Commissioner Jim Dowson suggested private businesses should be encouraged to take a closer look at the need to provide faster emergency services and more complete health care for the growing number of central Cass residents.
The closest hospitals for Cass County residents are in Brainerd, Bemidji, Grand Rapids and Park Rapids, all outside the county. Many cities in Cass have satellite clinics offering routine medical care services during normal weekday business hours.
None have around-the-clock emergency service. Only the Leech Lake Health Services hospital at Cass Lake can provide emergency treatment.
Opheim said it has been suggested a first step might be to have more paramedics on ambulances, but ambulance services based in Longville and Walker are volunteer organizations.
Their staffs already are pressed for time and money to reach emergency medical technician training level, she said.
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