Monday, April 02, 2007

New hospital coming to GF?

The rumors are apparently true. There is a new hospital coming to the south side of Grand Forks.

Tonight, the Grand Forks city council will discuss an application for property tax exemption from Aurora Medical Center. According to WDAZ, the new $60 million dollar hospital will be built near the current Aurora Medical Park/Stadter Center complex.

Big news, huh? This comes almost a year after Altru Health System announced that they will be spending $100 million dollars expanding and renovating their facilities. When the new Aurora hospital is built, this will be the first time in years that Grand Forks residents will have more than one hospital to choose from.

Update - 4/3/2007 - 12:45 AM
I just changed $20 million to $60 million. I'm pretty sure WDAZ had stated $20 million, but Tu-Uyen's article in Tuesday's Herald says $60 million.


Goon said...

I am sick and tired of the City giving tax breaks to business when we are supposed to some how pay for a the new Jail being short money. I don't get it?

We already have a hostipital in town.

Casey said...

Finally! Maybe some competition will encourage Altru to elevate their quality of care.

Anonymous said...

The new jail has nothing to do with the city and everything to do with the county

ben said...

good news. That is a major new investment that will bring in some much needed competition.

ben said...

I think the confusion was that WDAZ said 20 million for the building, where Tu-Uyen said a 60 million dollar complex. the 40 mill would probably be taking the empty building and putting all of the necessary equipment to makd it into a full-service hospital.

vcsuvike said...

This is good news. It may hurt Altru for a bit, but they will rebound well and find better ways to help patients. The two facilities are making major investments in the GF area.

mattfacingsouth said...

If it's run well, nothing but good can come from this.

Hey, GF finally has an "Aurora!"

I wonder if this means Altru will finally get rid of their archaic no-cell-phone policy.

Anonymous said...

Given the history of what the Grand Forks City Council has done in the name of "economic development", this deal should sale through the system to approval.

vcsuvike said...

The no-cell phone policy is something enforced at most hospitals, including Mayo Clinic. There are two reasons, privacy and the signal sometimes plays tricks on heart monitors.

mattfacingsouth said...

I heard recently that studies show there is no risk of anything with current heart-monitors or anything else, for that matter.

I understand the privacy thing, but that's what a lobby or a waiting room is for.

What I was getting at is that maybe with Altru upgrading their infrastructure and machinery, that this policy will be stricken.

It's trivial, I know, but it's really irking, especially if one has to take a child in for something and needs to call his/her significant other for any reason.

bethski said...

Yes we all know the whole cell phone bit in the hospital thing is bogus. However I do feel in some cases out of respect those things should be shut off, like when people are sleeping and trying to rest, would you want to be hearing those idiotic rings going off constantly cuz your next door neighbors family keeps visiting?

anyways, this is a great idea because altru cant keep their neurologists....ever. Since Teetzen left anyways. Maybe Aurura can??

Benjamin said...

You people really like to whine...the same folks again and again. That, along with the spelling errors, weakens what was initially a great blog spot.


GO GO said...

This will create more good paying jobs in the area...and as many of you must already know. GF is in dire need of those ! Maybe they will offer healthcare options that are currently forcing residents of GF to go to Fargo, ND ...For example ALTRU does not have a Specialized Fertility Specialist...and the list goes on.


Goon said...

Anon, your totally wrong it has to do with the mind set in this town, on one end of the spectrum you got people just eager to raise everyone's taxes and on the other end you have people that want to go out and give people a tax break.

I question wether we need a nother hosptial in this town. This isn't fargo nor is it probably big enough to support two hospitials.

Finally! Maybe some competition will encourage Altru to elevate their quality of care.
as a spouse of a nurse I find this statement offensive and ill informed.

dale said...

Tax wise, this seems pretty straightforward. On the one hand, you have Altru, which pays no property taxes, and an empty piece of land that probably raises about $10,000 a year in taxes, if that.

On the other hand, you have some investors who want to build a hospital and want some years of tax abatement. Thus, for those years, you're losing $10,000 (or whatever it is) a year. If you assume they won't build it without the tax abatement, you're not losing anything else. You can't say, "oh, it's costing us $600,000 in taxes a year!"

Once the five years abatement is over, you'll earn back the $50,000 in lost taxes pretty quickly. Fairly straightfoward from a simple accounting perspective.

But the underlying issue is twofold -- will the for profit hospital come back in five years and say "we can't afford the taxes -- continue the forebearance, or we'll have to cut all of these jobs"? Secondly, how will this impact Altru -- do we wind up with two hospitals, each providing lesser levels of care, because there isn't enough business to go around?

It all comes down to whether there are enough people that leave the area for medical care to support the additional facility, and what the carrot will be for the for-profit guys to lure me, as a customer, away from Altru. Lower prices? Shorter wait times? Let me use my cell phone in the place?

My gut tells me that there isn't enough demand, and, if this goes forward, in five or ten years, you'll see another merger with Altru like we saw with the Family Medicine clinic.

ben said...

I'm not sure about the private hospital not making it. Bismark has two hospitals, Fargo has three, and until very recently even Minot had two hospitals. Altru has reached a point where wait times have become very bothersome - try being a healthy male who wants to go in for a physical/check-up. You will have to turn the calendar several times before you get in...and you won't be able to get a "primary care physician". I have tried several times, with no success. It certainly feels like the demand is there. If competition is good for everything else, why not healthcare?
And Dale brings up an excellent point with losing 10,000/yr in taxes, not 600,000...which would be made up the first month they paid taxes after the abatement was up.
I wonder if the new hospital will have an ambulance service?

Anonymous said...

what happens to private, for profit hospitals when the u.s. joins the rest of the modern world and has universal healthcare?

Anonymous said...

Ben... about waiting times... that is the norm now, especially for a physical. That is an industry standard to place those non-immediate appointments back. Besides, most insurance companies do not pay for male physicals.

Anonymous said...

I think another hospital in GF would be a great thing, for many of the reasons already posted.

Goon, I just want to say that the nursing care my family and myself has received at Altru has always been wonderful. When my daughter was born this summer, my labor and deliver nurses were the absolute best, along with the nurses who worked in the newborn nursery.

If I personally were to say that there were things that Altru could do to improve their care, I would not include the nurses. I do echo what the previous poster said about trying to get in as a new patient with a PCP, which is why we go to North Valley in EGF. It's a smaller practice and they do take most insurance and have hospital privileges at Altru.

Anonymous said...

Tax abatements only apply to the improvements on the land. Therfore the taxes on the land will coninue to be paid.

Altru currently has over 150 job openings for a verity of positions. I do not how long those positions take to fill, but what will it be like when the new additional 500 medical jobs need to be filled. Are both places going to have a hard time filling them, thus driving down the health service of both places.

Stuck somewhere between career opportunities, increase in the local tax base and quality health care.

Anonymous said...

That's a great point. The demand for healthcare personnel is a nationwide situation. We have to ask ourselves...will these people move to Grand Forks, ND, or some other more desireable place? The answer is pretty simple, we just need to find all those RN's that are into huntin', fishin', and hockey.

dale said...

Tax abatements only apply to the improvements on the land. Therfore the taxes on the land will coninue to be paid.

Wasn't aware of that, thanks for clarifying.

However, it makes the situation worse. In scenario A, city doesn't grant petition, hospital doesn't get built, therefore no taxes paid. In scenario B, city grants the petition, hospital gets built, but no taxes are paid (for a while.)

Thus, by taking the money out of the equation, but leaving the decision in the hands of the city, you now have the city effectively in control of whether the place gets built, and yet deciding it on a basis other than the money involved. (eg: are there enough nurses to hire, will they have loss leaders like a trauma centre, etc.)

Based on past experience, the last people you want making business decisions is a government panel.

Personally, I'd say no to the tax abatement -- if the Aurora guys don't think that they can make a go of it without that, then maybe it's a bad idea to start with. Sending two entities (Altru and Aurora) scurrying after limited dollars is a prescription (no pun intended :-) for lower quality of service, not higher, as they try to meet an increasingly more expensive service budget with reduced income.

PartTime said...

Can Grand Forks support another hospital.........they used to. Years ago they had St. Michaels Hospital and the Deaconess Hospital and the population of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks was a lot less back then too. Bismarck for years has had two hospitals and our city and metro population is close. This new hospital they are proposing isn't a real big hospital like Altru, it is a smaller 70 bed hospital or there abouts. Even with it being built, the number of beds in Grand Forks doesn't equal that of Bismarck's hospitals, a regional area about like us. I watched the city council meeting on tv Monday night, they are asking for a 5 year tax abatement. Altru had a couple of people there speaking out against the abatement, they are non profit, they don't pay taxes. I see this as a plus for Grand Forks and I think, it will happen even without the tax abatement, but I would hate to chance it.

Anonymous said...

Grand Forks can support another hospital! Especially if the public allows the support to happen. Many people in the health care world didn't think that Innovis would survive and look it is! They thought that Meritcare was too powerful and that it would only work for a year or two. If you haven't been to Innovis you should visit it. It is the best around as far as set up. Altru does provide a quality of care but it is in the need for some competition. Competition for its employees so it will pay their employees more money. Competition in terms of service to its patients. I have had two surgeries at Altru in the past few years and while they have provided "quality" at an acceptable level they haven't provided quality in an "outstanding" level.

Go Aurora Go!!!

Goon said...

I agree with Dale no tax break for the Aurora. It's a bad idea.

Anonymous said...

This will be a great drama to watch pan out. The "Anything for the Southend" crowd will be genuinely conflicted on this one.

Should be fun!

Goon said...

I have lived on the south end for 3 years and the traffic has really picked up in this end of town the last year. I liked it when it was more quite. One plus is my bank will be closer in the future.

C. Y. said...

I fail to see any downside to another medical facility in GF.

As to the traffic, the person responsible needs to get off their a$$ and put up some traffic lights and mark some lanes so they can be seen longer the the 24 hours after they are painted. Lanes and lines that disappear when it rains is crap for a small town not a so-called destination city.

(ask me how I really feel :-) )

Anonymous said...

With the opening of a 2nd Hospital in the Grand Forks area, Altru would lose it's Sole Community Provider benefit - a direct hit of $7.5 million per year - given to provide services in typically areas of loss - i.e. Trauma, ER. Areas in which a For-Profit hospital would be hesitant to provide because they are loss areas.

Given that, $7.5 mil per year was Altru's net profit for 2006. As a non-profit, that $7.5 mil went back into the organization & community to buy equipment and further facility improvements to provide better patient care. Take away $7.5 million a year - Altru will have no profit - meaning no facility/equipment improvements - meaning lesser quality care, older capital equipment... most importantly it would mean eventually downsizing employees & services. At $7.5 mil a year, 155 employees are paid an average of $45,000 salary & benefits. So let's lose 155 Altru employees, take away $7.5 from the community annually, (while this new hospital supposedly gains 150 employees at it's peak), but also let the community pay $3 mil in a 5 year tax abatement.

I enjoy reading this blog and I've agreed with 90% of it's comments over the year until this topic, and I am for Grand Forks development. I live here, I love this town, I agree with improvements and new citizens. However, losing $7 million annually, giving that money to a for-profit hospital whose main investor is actually a Fargo businessman & resident, who has hired a Fargo architect to draw up the plans for this hospital, who has agreed to hire environmental service (housekeeping) workers from a Fargo firm.... why would we as Grand Forks community members allow this?

ec99 said...

My experience at Altru has generally gone this way:

Arrive for 9:00 appointment
Sit in waiting room unitl 9:25
Sit in examining room until 9:50
when doctor enters.
Depart after 20 minutes.
Receive bill for $150.00

Anonymous said...

The issue here is should we give a for-profit business a tax abatement or not when we already have a community hospital.
This is my tax dollars that would be going to the pockets of the Investors of the for-profit business. Altu Health system is a community owned hospital and is run by the community through the board of directors. If Altru makes a profit it is going back into the community because the profits are used to buy updated equipment with new technology, which in turn is used to treat you the patients in this community. Are you aware that the Federal Government (Medicare) is currently giving the community just under $7 million dollars each year because we have a sole community hospital in our community. This money helps to cover the cost of the care that is given in the community. With the opening up of another hospital in the community this $7 million dollars that is coming from Medicare will be eliminated from our community.
I find it hard to believe that the city council who is suppose to be working for our community would support taking our tax dollars and giving a for-profit hospital $3 million dollars in five years to build another hosptial and at the same time supporting taking away $7 million dollars from our community each year!!!! This is not supporting the community residents. This doesn't seem like a good business decision to me. Again I don't support the Tax Abatement. If the for-profit hospital really wants to be here let them build without our tax dollars.

Anonymous said...

The city is not giving the hospital anything. They are simply not taking taxes for the first five years they aren't open. That is a far cry from them "giving" anything. Altru just announced $100 million in improvements and upgrades to clinics and services. If $7 million is going to kill them, maybe they need a new business plan. And EC99 - that is my experience exactly - only usually the doctor leaves after 5 minutes, not 20!

Anonymous said...

sorry - the first five years the ARE open...