Granite Falls Health is beginning to enter a Partnership Discussions with Avera Health. The Granite Falls Health Board of Directors approved moving forward with partnership discussions with Avera Health at their meeting on Tuesday, May 28. Avera was one of four health systems invited to respond to a request for proposals from Granite Falls Health earlier this spring. Other systems included Sanford, CentraCare and Health Partners. After months of due diligence, the Community Task Force and Board of Directors selected Avera.

“I commend the Community Task Force for the work they put into finding the right partner to preserve and enhance health care in Granite Falls. Some of the factors the task force cited in choosing Avera as a potential partner include cultural fit, preservation of local services, experience in rural health care, and success in physician recruitment,” said Tom Kooiman, CEO, Granite Falls Health. “I’m looking forward to the next steps in the process which include working toward a letter of intent which will likely take four to six weeks. Upon completion of a letter of intent, parties would begin determining what a partnership would look like. That process could take up to six months.”

“We’re honored that Granite Falls Health selected Avera as a potential partner,” said Mary Maertens, Regional President and CEO, Avera Marshall. “This thoughtful partnership discussion confirms that Avera and Granite Falls have shared interests in keeping services local and strengthening rural health care. Avera Marshall has had a professional services agreement for clinic services in place with Granite Falls Health since April 2017. We look forward to the next steps in exploring how we can expand this partnership.”

Kooiman spoke to the Granite Falls City Council on Monday night to inform the council members of the progress that is being made and discuss the plan in more detail. “We started this by forming a Community Task Force that is a subcommittee of the Hospital Board. The purpose of the task force was to determine if there was an argument to be made for partnering with a larger health system, and it turns out there was a strong argument to be made.” said Kooiman.

“One of the major reasons partnering with a larger health system would benefit us is by helping with capital needs. In the future we are going to have some capital needs and the hospital could only comfortably spend about 25 million dollars. It’s also important that our partner value rural health care and they need to keep services and jobs in the community.”

Mayor Dave Smiglewski is a member of the Community Task Force and also added that the main goal is to preserve health care services and jobs in the community. “That is the most important thing. We need to make sure we continue to have health care services and jobs in the community.”

Kooiman discussed the different types of partnership options, a management agreement, a lease agreement, or a full purchase agreement. “Right now the task force and the board have shied away from a management agreement and are looking more at the lease or full purchase agreement… there are still a lot of benefits to having the building be publicly owned.”

“We are in the early stages of negotiations and we still have a lot of work to do. We are working on putting together a non-binding letter of intent and once we have that put together we will share that with council, but we aren’t taking any action right now.”

“Again the main thing is that we continue to have health care services and jobs in this community. We want to make sure we still have an emergency room and a clinic and offer long term care.” Kooiman said in closing.