Let’s have a community digital rectal exam on what constitutes core public services, including the Northfield Hospital


I was encouraged earlier this month when I read this Northfield News article, Task force to recommend review of hospital ownership.

A council-appointed study group on Tuesday will recommend a thorough review of the future of the city-owned Northfield Hospital, including a look at the facility’s ownership. The Ad Hoc Finance Study Group, charged with reviewing potential revenue streams for the city, made the recommendation after more than a year of discussions with the Hospital Board. It’s expected to discuss its findings during next week’s City Council meeting and ask that a task force be appointed to conduct the in-depth review.

LWV observer Jane McWilliams reported on the March 13 Council meeting:

In addition to selling the hospital, other options the study group has discussed include establishing an annual contribution to the city from the hospital, similar to that approved earlier this year, and creation of an alternate ownership while retaining local control…

How the task force and the hospital board might work together was a concern. Councilor Betsy Buckheit said it should be clear that the city is instigating this.  Councilor Ivan Imm who serves on both the council and the hospital board said cooperation shouldn’t be forced, but the council should ask for the opportunity to work together. The city administrator and hospital president will support the task force in its work and it is possible they will contract  “outside resources.”

Jane included this comment with her report:

What are core city services? The work of the Finance Advisory Group appears to be guided by their collective understanding of what constitute core services. This is a topic the council has not discussed, and thus has not given the advisory group direction on this important value. It is a topic we need to think about as citizens in evaluating the work of the council as it struggles to adjust to difficult financial times.

I don’t have an informed opinion about Northfield Hospital ownership but I like what the Ad Hoc Finance Study Group has done thus far so their recommendation to have council-appointed study group look at the issue seemed a good one.  But for some reason, even talking about the issue is troubling for some people. In yesterday’s Nfld News: Hospital study on hold, pending conversations between leadership

“This has been very disturbing for us at the hospital,” said Crow. “This has been very disturbing for our staff. There’s a devaluing of what we do just by having this discussion.” Speaker after speaker asked — even implored — the City Council to take care when studying such a valuable community asset. The hospital, owned by the city for nearly 80 years, showed a net profit of $2.7 million in 2010.

Hospital President Mark Henke likened the process to a digital rectal exam, saying “there’s only so much you should fight.” “We’re trying to run a $75 million company … and we’re going through a lot of distractions. As we go through our exam, it remains to be seen if we will need sedation,” he said.

See the links to the video archive of the Council discussion in this KYMN blog post.

I’m with Jane McWilliams. Why not have a Council-led community discussion about what constitutes core public services, including the Northfield Hospital?  After all, real men don’t fear the finger.

275 | Exam fear-33-w-shirt-198x250

Decline in teen smoking jeopardizes profits for Northfield’s Muni, funding for Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Alcohol & Drug Use

Teen smoking is declining, according to a recent Monitoring the Future press release:

The 2011 national survey results from the Monitoring the Future study show decreases in teen smoking in all three grades under study—grades 8, 10, and 12. The proportion saying that they smoked at all in the prior 30 days fell significantly for the three grades combined, from 12.8% in 2010 to 11.7% this year.

Northfield Municipal Liquor StoreOfficials from the City of Northfield this week, while acknowledging that this is good news for obvious reasons, expressed some concern because the Northfield Municipal Liquor Store profits from its sale of cigarettes and cigars.

"These teens are our potential future customers," said Juan Morefore DeRhode, Muni Manager.  "If this trend holds up, we’re going to have to revisit the revenue projections in our long-range plan and adjust accordingly." 

When asked what marketing strategies he’d consider that might help to ensure future tobacco revenues, DeRhode said he continues to have discussions with the gift shop at the Northfield Hospital, owned by the City of Northfield but operated by the Northfield Hospital Auxiliary. "We’ve always said that one of the reasons we carry tobacco products at the Muni is for the convenience of the customer.  That rationale holds up for the hospital’s gift shop, too, with so many of its patients addicted to tobacco. We’d be delighted to work with them and split the profits."

The issue was on the agenda of Northfield’s Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Alcohol & Drug Use last week.

"Tobacco will prematurely kill the kids who smoke but only when they get much older," said Task Force member Dr. Kirsten Mashton.  "So we’re not really concerned about that.  Our worries are tied to the revenue projections. We received $15,750 in 2011 from the Muni. If the decline in teen smoking continues, that jeopardizes our future funding and our ability to make an impact."

The City’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) is also concerned. "We worked hard to bring two tobacco businesses to Northfield in the past year," said EDA President Janis Tappan. "It would be a shame if Tobacco Field or Division Tobacco took a hit from this decline in teen smoking and had to close."

Surgeon General: Just one cigarette can harm you. City of Northfield: Buy it from us.

Last week saw many stories in the media like this one from USA Today, Just one cigarette can harm DNA, Surgeon General says:

Smooth ReaperEven brief exposure to tobacco smoke causes immediate harm to the body, damaging cells and inflaming tissue in ways that can lead to serious illness and death, according to the U.S. Surgeon General’s new report on tobacco, the first such report in four years.

While the report, out today, focuses on the medical effects of smoke on the body, it also sheds light on why cigarettes are so addictive: They are designed to deliver nicotine more quickly and more efficiently than cigarettes did decades ago.

Unlike (many? most? all?) municipal liquor stores in the Twin Cities area, the Northfield Municipal Liquor Store continues to sell cigarettes, hundreds of dollars worth every month, for an annual profit of aboutf $5,000/year.

I last whined about this policy in August of 2007 (Should the City of Northfield be selling gateway drugs to its citizens? Alcohol, yes. Tobacco, no) and before that in January of ’07 with a faux news post, Northfield Hospital board opts for cigarette revenue.

I really don’t understand why the Northfield Hospital Board, the Northfield Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Alcohol and Drug Use (MTF), the Northfield School Board, and other local organizations concerned with health and youth chemical issues don’t pressure the Northfield City Council to get out of the tobacco business. Don’t they take ClearWay Minnesota‘s campaign We all pay the price for tobacco seriously?

Mayo proposes radiation oncology treatment center on St. Olaf land near Northfield Hospital

mayologoNfld News: Mayo announces $10 million facility in Northfield.

St. Olaf President David Anderson sent out this email earlier today

Dear Oles and Colleagues:

I am writing to inform you of a pending development that involves a parcel of land owned by the College on the far northern edge of campus.

Mayo Clinic is proposing the development of a radiation oncology treatment center in Northfield. The facility will be located near Northfield Hospital. The center’s patients will have access to services provided by the hospital.

Mayo is considering an approximately 3  1/2  acre tract along the south side of North Avenue, with the College leasing that land for construction of the new center. Once completed, the 13,000 square foot facility will allow Northfield area patients to receive oncology services close to home, where before many had to travel more than an hour away for their daily radiation treatments.

Continue reading Mayo proposes radiation oncology treatment center on St. Olaf land near Northfield Hospital

State of MN to City: David DeLong was right. Hospital to now handle its own public data requests

David DeLongIn December, former Northfield City Councilor David DeLong asked Northfield Hospital for the names of the finalists in its search for a new CEO/president. It turned into a bit of a saga.

Approved by the Northfield City Council as part of the consent agenda last night:

The City Council of the City of Northfield hereby requests that the Northfield Hospital adopt a data practices policy and establish a responsible authority in compliance with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.

Background:

    Opinion: Based on the facts and information provided, the Commissioner’s opinion on the issue Mr. DeLong raised is as follows:

    Pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 13, regarding a data request for the names of finalists for the position of president of the Northfield Hospital, the City of Northfield responded in a timely manner by providing some data responsive to the request but incorrectly classified some data as not public.

Photo redux: 2003 hospital reuse open house and presentation to Council

While digging through my photo archives, I stumbled upon photos from two public meetings in late fall of 2003: the Hospital Reuse Open House in November and a presentation by Hospital Reuse committee members Alex Beeby and Meg Hargreaves to the City Council in December, with photos of citizens (primarily Mail carrier Tom Kotula with special delivery package Way Park advocates) speaking at open mic. (Those links go to my blog posts at Northfield.org.) I’ve combined the photos from both meetings into one album.

There are some familiar faces in this album.  My favorite: downtown mail carrier Tom Kotula, showing his ability to handle more than the mail.

See the album of 38 photos, the large slideshow, or this small slideshow:

Continue reading Photo redux: 2003 hospital reuse open house and presentation to Council

Ken Bank, now a drag on the economy

Yet another Ken Bank retirement party Ken Bank was toasted by the gang of 6 am regulars at GBM this morning, as he’s now officially a former Northfield Hospital president and CEO.

I’m pretty sure it was ginger ale in those glasses.

Is Northfield having a norovirus outbreak?

norovirus A parent stopped by my office at the GBM this morning to tell me that he took one of his children to the Northfield Hospital emergency room over the weekend for severe vomiting and diarrhea. The child was diagnosed with norovirus (aka Norwalk agent) and he said the emergency room was very busy with similar cases.

There’s an outbreak in Alexandria according to this article in the Echo Press: Peak norovirus season under way in Minnesota.

Hospital CEO search lacks transparency

Northfiel Hospital logo Today’s Nfld News: Hospital Board meetings likely broke law. "Hospital officials likely broke open meeting laws by routinely closing meetings to the public to discuss executive departures from the city-owned enterprise…" In mid-August, Northfield Hospital‘s Bobbi Jenkins contacted me about posting a news release (see below) from the search committee "seeking input from the community regarding the most important qualities for candidates for the President/CEO position." (continued)

Continue reading Hospital CEO search lacks transparency

Construction begins on Center for Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation expansion

Center for Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center for Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation expansion 
Construction on the $2 million addition to the Northfield Hospital’s Center for Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (CSMR) at Jefferson Parkway and Jefferson Road began this week. According to the notice posted to the Hospital’s news page back in Feb:

It will provide space for a new rehabilitation gym, 15 treatment rooms for physical therapists and a larger, more efficient reception space. Once the addition is complete, the physical therapy department will move into it; and the existing space will be refurbished to accommodate the Children’s Therapy & Speech and the Work Systems programs, both of which are currently located in a separate location on Professional Drive.

The online patient: is the Northfield medical community ready and willing to adapt?

BCBS-well-sshot

Is Northfield ready for online medical consultations? Today’s Strib has a story about how BCBS MN plans to use American Well online medical consultation service. (More below.)  How about online reviews of doctors? A month ago, USA Today ran a story titled: Doctors seek gag orders to stop patients’ online reviews. How about Internet access in the hospital and clinics? (continued)

Continue reading The online patient: is the Northfield medical community ready and willing to adapt?

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