Why are we here?

Dr. Ken Holmen, who serves as CEO of CentraCare Health, stood in the midst of a crowd of Redwood Area residents May 22 and asked that question.

Why was it that residents had came together for a listening session regarding the future of the Redwood Area Hospital?

After all, reports continue to show the hospital is in a good position financially. The hospital has been recognized for its commitment to care. Yet, by the end of the year the City of Redwood Falls is currently scheduled to no longer be the owner of the local hospital.

What happened?

Holmen said it all hearkens back to the 1860s when Redwood County was established and the first health care provision began in the area. Healthcare has always been a priority, but over time health care has changed. Health care in 1862 was not the same as it was right after World War II. 

It is not the same today, either.

What brought on discussions about healthcare in the Redwood Area was a look into the future based on the trends happening now, said Holmen.

The “why” is about what happens next, he added.

There are three market drivers that need to be addressed moving forward as it relates to health care, including money, technology and people, said Holmen.

“Health care is very expensive in America,” said Holmen, adding annually the nation spends about 1.4 trillion on healthcare.

Currently, said Holmen, about 60 percent of health care is being paid for by the federal and state government, but as more of the Baby Boomer generation ages the amount being paid by the state and federal government will increase.

A second market driver is technology, said Holmen, who said this past Christmas (2017) for the first time in history more people purchased their gifts online than they did from a store.

Technology is changing the way healthcare is being delivered as well, added Holmen.

The third market driver, people, is becoming a greater concern for those in healthcare, especially in more rural areas.

There is a work force shortage, said Holmen, and that shortage continues to get bigger.

For any employer having less of a pool of people from which to recruit makes it more of a challenge to hire people for openings, especially if it is in a smaller, more rural area.

Holmen said while it is valuable to look at the past and to be aware of the present, it is also critical to focus on the future two, five, 10 and 20 years from now, because, as historic trends have shown, how healthcare is provided in the future is going to be very different than it is today.

“Size makes a difference,” said Holmen, adding being part of a larger entity provides the leverage one needs to be at the table when it comes to securing funding from the government, to purchase the technology that is needed and to have the amenities and capital to recruit people willing to work and be part of rural communities.

The reality for the Redwood Area Hospital, said Bryan Lydick, hospital CEO, is that all of those areas have become a challenge.

While the local hospital continues to be successful financially and is providing quality healthcare to the area, the fact of the matter is that the ability to do that is getting harder all of the time, said Lydick.

As an example, the hospital has had a position open for the past 18 months simply because they can’t find anyone to fill it. The funding the hospital is receiving is being reduced each year.

“We are getting $1.3 million less today from Blue Cross/Blue Shield than we did just three years ago,” said Lydick.

Lydick said while the hospital is still doing well, it can do a lot better if it is part of a stronger team.

“You can be a lot stronger with better depth on the bench,” said Lydick.

Something different needed to happen for the hospital to continue to be viable into the future, and those in leadership at the hospital and city level believe the move to Carris Health is the difference that is needed.

Carris Health, which is a subsidiary of CentraCare Health, is still a rural-based and focused entity, said Lydick, and even though there will be changes in things like governance and ownership there are other things that are not going to change.

“The same people who are taking care of you today will be the same staff taking care of you Jan. 1,” said Lydick.

The process continues in what is known as the definitive agreements stage, which is scheduled to be finished this summer, with the transition and transfer from the Redwood Area Hospital to Carris Health taking place at the end of 2018 (Dec. 31) and beginning of 2019 (Jan. 1).

No, the site of the new campus has not been determined, and Lydick said the search for that ideal piece of land continues. He said the desire is for a piece of property about 40-50 acres in size that would allow for the planned campus as well as room for future growth.

A second listening session is being held May 31 from 6-7 p.m. at the Redwood Area Community Center in Redwood Falls.

The public is encouraged to attend.