New River affiliating with CentraCare

by Tim Hennagir

ECM Sun Publications

Directors with St. Cloud-based CentraCare Health Systems voted recently to move ahead affiliation plans with New River Medical Center in Monticello.

Jeanine Nistler, CentraCare’s director of communications, confirmed CentraCare’s three governing boards had approved the affiliation partnership plan that was passed 6-1 by New River Medical Center’s Board of Directors on Nov. 26. Documentation regarding the overall affiliation process and partnership will be drafted and signed and a due diligence process is about to begin. The two health care systems may discuss an interim management agreement as affiliation moves ahead. “I know their boards did approve moving forward,” added Joni Pawelk, New River Medical Center’s director of marketing.

Meanwhile, the New River Medical Center Board was expected to sign documents this week further cementing its affiliation with St. Cloud-based CentraCare.

Affiliation legal documents were listed as an action item on the Dec. 13 board agenda. Thomas Schroeder, New River’s legal counsel, was the scheduled presenter.

Some type of memorandum of understanding (MOU) or letter of intent was scheduled for board members’ signatures Thursday night, said Joni Pawelk, New River’s director of marketing.

“I don’t have a crystal ball in front of me to tell you exactly what’s going to happen, but the indicators I’ve been tuned into indicate either a MOU or letter of intent most likely will be signed,” she said Tuesday. “The board has not worked through an interim management agreement; that won’t be signed nor have they worked through final lease documents.”

Watch next week’s Star News for a report on the Dec. 13 meeting.

New River and CentraCare will work together in the coming months to jointly produce a growth plan, physician development plan and capital investment plan.

Four CentraCare Health System administrators addressed various aspects of the affiliation process Monday during a lunch meeting with  media.

Dr. Terence Pladson is CentraCare Health System’s president and chief executive officer; Craig Broman is president of St. Cloud Hospital, a separate entity within the CentraCare Health System but its largest overall system component; Dr. David Tilstra is CentraCare Clinic president and Jim Davis is CentraCare’s vice president of operations.

Davis is also president of CentraCare Health System-Melrose, CentraCare Health System-Long Prairie and Sauk Centre, and will work directly with New River Medical Center during a 100-day transition.

Davis is also president of Central Minnesota Emergency Physicians Corp.  “We are going to work together to create a 100-day plan that meets the community’s needs, represents the community, and has community input,” Davis said.

Public focus groups of 10 to 12 people will be formed from random New River Medical Center patient lists. Phone marketing surveys will be conducted as well.

“We will go through the list of patients and send out a letter to see if they are interested in participating in the process,” Nistler said during Monday’s meeting.

Davis said CentraCare wants to collect information to better define the population, the demographics and ratios it takes to support physicians of various types.

“Each affiliation (CentraCare has) is unique,” he said. “We don’t have a cookie-cutter (plan). We look at the individual marketplace, providers and facilities.”

Davis said CentraCare is the fourth largest health care system in the state of Minnesota. Heading towards the Twin Cities, its market ends right at Monticello.

Pladson said the St. Cloud-based health care provider looks for new partnerships and collaboration efforts in communities where it already has expertise.

“We are interested in serving patients who could remain local, and could receive care at the specialty centers that we have here in St. Cloud or through partnered outreach programs where we bring specialists into the community,” Pladson said, mentioning St. Benedict’s Senior Community in Monticello as an additional patient care facility within CentraCare’s network. “We have nine dialysis programs throughout the region, and built clinics in Big Lake and Becker.”

Pladson also mentioned the Monticello Cancer Center, the three-way joint venture involving North Memorial Medical Center, New River and CentraCare.

“We bring radiation therapy specialty expertise from our Coborn Cancer Center to the table,” he said. “We have the same kind of facility up in Alexandria.”

Tilstra addressed CentraCare’s current efforts to reach out to Monticello Clinic physicians, who have been at odds with New River Medical Center CEO Marshall Smith.

“We’ve already had meetings with them,”  Tilstra said. “We want to come together and have some understanding about their needs and goals. The thing that we are going to emphasize with them is that we’re going to build the medical community in Monticello to meet the community needs.