Northfield Hospital sinks to a new low

photo of northfield hospital At Monday night’s City Council work session, Northfield Hospital Administrator Ken Bank was on the agenda to brief the council on the problem with the hospital’s floor settling problem.

The Northfield News had this article on the problem back in April: Hospital’s floors are settling.  

Though the subcontractor responsible for the work has since gone out of business, the hospital still has recourse – and is in talks with the subcontractor’s insurance company, who Bank characterized as “receptive.” … He estimates repairs could cost as much as a few hundred thousand dollars.

I was hoping to see something in today’s paper about it. Anyone have details on the situation and what Ken reported?

3:13 PM update: there is an article in today’s Nfld News but it’s not on their website. I’ll see if they can get it posted. Estimate to repair is now up to $1 million.

8:10 update: The Nfld News article is up: Hospital fix could cost $1.1 million


  1. Anne Bretts said:

    It looks like the prayer ladies were in the wrong location!
    Seriously, this is just apalling…It should not end with a quiet settlement and repairs. There should be a full report explaining how the inspectors, engineers, project managers, etc. all missed this and what steps need to be taken to make sure this doesn’t happen on another project.

    August 30, 2007
  2. kiffi summa said:

    This appalling development actually brings up an interesting situation….. If you read the city charter, and code, you get an idea of the relationship between the city and its owned entity, the Hospital.

    Although the city is totally the owner of the hospital, it has pretty much left all the operations up to the hospital management staff, except for the major capital expenditures like new buildings, etc. But when something like this happens, is there really any way it could have “not Happened”? i.e. is it not just a failed engineering plan? And therefor a failure of the engineering firm? I wouldn’t think that anyone in Hospital or city staff could have reasonably challenged the contracting engineers; after all, that engineering firm certainly doesn’t want this on their resume.

    I wonder what the length of liability is for a large engineering project like this. Of course, we are a throw-away society. When the Friends of Way Park were fighting to get the old hospital land back for an expanded Way Park (to fulfill the requirements of the original Way family gift) we were told that “in perpetuity” only legally meant 30 years in Minnesota!

    August 30, 2007
  3. Anne Bretts said:

    Kiffi, “How could this have not happened?” How could the I-35W bridge not fall…there were poor inspections and bad decisions along the way. This is even more problematic because this wasn’t about a project failing after many years of vastly changing weather and traffic and natural conditions, but a new building that failed because there was inadequate preparation for a concrete floor.
    The formulas for the support that is needed for such a floor is well documented. The floor failed becasue someone did poor soil preparation and someone else didn’t inspect it properly and force it to be corrected before the floor was poured. And since the soil preparation and pouring of flooring and supports affects the entire structure, and since mistakes are hidden after pouring, this is a key point in the construction process. A $1 million error means the system didn’t work, and any solution should include a complete review and evaluation of what went wrong and how to prevent it in the future. The report can help city officials (and other public and private bodies) learn whether there are new inspection measures that need to be incorporated into future projects.
    For example, imagine the impact of inadequate support under the floor of a library or fire station.

    I’m not clear why you are bringing the city charter into this. My comment and this thread weren’t about the city’s role in the hospital operations, they were about a construction problem…but since you asked.
    I’m familiar with the issues of city-owned hospitals and have written about them many times over the years. I don’t believe the hospital management is responsible directly, although perhaps if this subcontractor was in that much trouble, he shouldn’t have been hired for this job or his work should have been scrutinized far more closely. If the board hired a project management firm, that firm has a lot of explaining to do; so does the general contractor who hired the sub or signed off on the hire.
    I don’t believe the council, or mayor or administrator had any role in it. In fact, in Virginia, MN, where the council plays a very active role in the hospital operations, it is a very cumbersome process. And that begs the “liquor store” issue of whether there should be city ownership.
    I was in Duluth when the city sold its hospital for the very reason that healthcare is a very complex industry with huge systems competing. Owning a single small hospital is like owning a single gas station or grocery store or a small lumber yard when you compete against Home Depots. You can do it, but it does not make sense.
    Owning a small hospital and then going into competition with private business in other cities seems outside the city government’s role. (Even if you believe in city liquor stores, building a liquor store chain in other cities seems beyond the mission).
    The new relationship with Mayo is a smart move, but Mayo and Allina should be competiting head to head, not with the city choosing sides.
    This is a very complex and fascinating issue, but too complex for this thread, and not part of the original post or my original comment. I do not care to get into a debate over city ownership of the hospital. The Mayo arrangement means the situation will play out as it would inevitably.

    August 31, 2007
  4. kiffi summa said:

    Sorry for the VERY awkward sentence in my prev post (“is there any way it could NOT have Happened”)……..I certainly didn’t mean it was “bound” to happen. I t was obviously a giant engineering failure.

    I brought up the organizational relationship between the city and the hospital, because although their budget streams are separate, I think most people would think “Who’s going to pay to fix this?”
    Certainly a very daunting fiscal situation.

    August 31, 2007

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