A Northfield city councilor is suggesting community discussion take place regarding the future of city-owned Northfield Hospital and Clinics.

David DeLong said on Saturday he wants “to be sure and would like to reassure the community by having an in-depth, informative discussion to make sure we are on the right track. I thought maybe other councilors might want to weigh in also.” DeLong’s suggestion came less than two weeks after the hospital announced it would reduce hours for some employees, transfer others within the organization and lay off another dozen to fend off a projected $1 million budget loss brought on by changes in the health care industry.

DeLong said the city could review a 2004 discussion on the possibility of changing the hospital to being independently owned. That process began with information gathering, as the City Council and Hospital Board considered the benefits and drawbacks of possibly transitioning the hospital to an independent ownership model. Informational meetings for residents, hospital staff and the medical community took place, and the hospital remained under city ownership.

DeLong suggested the community conversation and review of the 2004 information and decisions could be a healthy approach and similar to what Northfield has done with wastewater operations, pavement assessments and the Comprehensive Plan.

“This might also provide pertinent information to the community that the City Council and Northfield Hospital are being proactive and conscientious concerning this important community asset,” DeLong said.

David DeLong mug

DeLong

Northfield Mayor Rhonda Pownell didn’t commit to the idea on Monday.

“The goal is that NH+C (continues) to thrive as an independent organization and be a resource for our community for the next generation,” she said. “Northfield Hospital and Clinics is a healthy organization and continues to adapt to business conditions and ongoing shifts in health care. The City Council and the Northfield Hospital and Clinics has a joint governance committee that is well-positioned to explore any structural governance issues related to the challenges of the current health care environment and are committed to creating a strong hospital in our community that will be around for the long term.”

DeLong said he has “complete faith in the current hospital administration team” and views his request as a separate discussion from the board governance situation.

Rhonda Pownell mug

Pownell

The hospital in 2019 grappled with a $320,000 loss in operations income through November. It ended last year with a positive operations income of $126,000. The average length of stay in 2018 decreased from 2.42 days to 2.23. Admissions dropped from 1,942 to 1,710 and the number of inpatient days decreased from 4,707 to 3,806.

Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115. © Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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