NEW BEGINNINGS AT THE HOSPITAL in Monticello. Pictured above are Hospital Board Member Linda Doerr, Chair Sheldon Johnson and CentraCare Monticello CEO Mary Ellen Wells. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards).

Hospital: A new sense of optimism

Staff Writer
Jennifer Edwards


The Monticello Big Lake Hospital Board met Thursday last week for an update on happenings at CentraCare-Monticello Hospital.
“The merger with CentraCare has gone very well,” said Board Chair Sheldon Johnson. “There have already been positive effects from the transition.”
The task included moving all the hospital’s personnel to CentraCare’s payroll and changing the name of the hospital to CentraCare Health-Monticello.
“The name change is visible,” said Johnson. “The opening of the OB unit is moving forward and they are working on recruiting doctors. Two new surgeons have already been hired. Overall working relationships have improved and things are moving along well. CentraCare is living up to their word.”
CentraCare is seeking experienced OB nurses to staff the unit and the reopening will not happen until nurses have been hired and trained, said CEO Mary Ellen Wells.
“Otherwise we are good to go,” she said. “We have hired a nurse manager but we still have to hire eight nurses.”
Plans to update the emergency room are still in the works. Funds earmarked for the project were diverted to build the new helipad at its temporary location at the west end of the parking lot. The City of Monticello granted CentraCare a two-year variance.
“We need to bury the electrical wires,” Wells said. “And we are still talking about where to put it. It could go on the roof but we do have the ability to add another floor, then build the helipad.”
Healing Relationships
Relationships at the hospital are healing and moving forward, Wells said.
“I hope when you come here you find a sense of hope and optimism,”
 Wells said. 
The Wapiti doctors group continues to provide hospitalist services to all patients admitted to the facility and CentraCare is working with Buffalo Hospital and Allina Health Care for billing and to keep costs down, Wells said.
“We are collaborating to keep patients locally,” said Wells.
Surgery specialist Dr. Troy Ivey left the hospital and two new surgeons, Dr. Bowen and Dr. Kemp, have started working at the hospital.
“We are seeing nice growth there,” said Wells. “All three clinics (Big Lake Clinic, CentraCare Monticello Physicians Clinic and Monticello Clinic), are referring patients and they are here every day, whether they are doing surgery or clinics. We also have full time coverage for anesthesiology, although we still use nurse anesthetist. They are doing 10-12 surgeries per day.”
A medical staff development plan has been drafted, which the clinics are reviewing, Wells said. CentraCare is moving ahead with physician recruitment across the campus.
The hospital’s long-term care center is making the transition to geriatric care services. There is an acute care unit with 10 designated beds. The hyperbaric chamber, working with CentraCare, is seeing more patients, Wells said.
“It’s a nice collaborative effort,” she said.
Results from the hospital’s audit will not be available until the end of November, said Chief Finance Officer Nancy Friesen. The board will review the audit at their April meeting.
“Although debt service is not specifically on the agenda, I wanted to assure you that all deposits have been made for semi-annual payments on the two remaining bonds and the lease payments,” she said.
This is the first year since 1965 there will be no hospital district tax levy.
“There are a lot of exciting things going on here,” said Johnson.
Attending the meeting were board members Linda Doerr, Candace Benoit, Bob Dawson and Brian Doyle.
Three board members did not attend the meeting. They are Tom Campell from the City of Big Lake, Richard Helms from Big Lake Township and Rob VanDenBerg from Otsego.


(From left) Lexi Freund (Big Lake), Betsey Cornelius and Ben Cornelius (Nowthen), Gunner Dorweiler and Colton Dorweiler (Princeton), Ben Manning (Zimmerman), Bailey Dorweiller (Princeton) and Salene Krueger (Big Lake.) The county fair runs from July 16-19. (Photo by Ken Francis.)

Dr. Lola Sutherland is retiring from clinical practice after 33 years in the Big Lake community. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards.)

SMITTY’S AMATEUR FIDDLERS CONTEST drew 22 musicians to compete in Big Lake this year. They were accompanied by Gilmore Lee.

LEE GERHARDSON, 47, from New London, was found dead in Big Lake near the swimming beach in 10 feet of water Monday. Cause of death is unknown at this time but foul play is not suspected.

Adopt-a-Road participants volunteer for Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and work to clean roadsides that border and bisect refuge land. This spring, from April to June, approximately six individuals, three families, and seven groups, such as boy and girl scouts and 4-H groups, volunteered to clean countless miles of roads. (Submitted photo.)