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Essentia threatens future of vital community hospital


November 1, 2019

The Pine Knot recently had an excellent article about the merger of Community Memorial Hospital and the Raiter Clinic ("Cloquet's health care twins make it official," Sept. 27, 2019). That article clearly listed all the services our hospital provides to Cloquet and surrounding area.

When I was Hospital Chaplain, it was not uncommon to have patients from the Range, Cook, or Ely areas who came because of our orthopedic surgeons. That was just one area of our broad outreach. Those working in the pain clinic, wound clinic, dialysis or other areas of our hospital can tell similar stories of people traveling some distance for their medical care.

The building of a clinic by Essentia Health in our community is concerning to me. The argument by Essentia is that it is addressing a medical need in this area. Undoubtedly, there are some residents who may welcome its coming because of the convenience for their own medical needs, and some individuals want more choice of doctors. I understand that, although I believe the doctors and medical staff our hospital and clinic offer are outstanding.

My concern is the future of our community hospital and clinic. I believe the statement by our hospital CEO, Rick Breuer, hits the nail on the head: Essentia is building an $800 million medical facility in Duluth, and someone has to pay for it! One way is to divert as much money as possible from outlying communities into that $800 medical giant.

Some may ask, "What difference does it make if Essentia takes over our hospital?"

The difference is this: The direction of medical care offered by CMH comes from our own CEO and our own CMH board of directors. These are individuals from Cloquet and the surrounding area. These are individuals we know from our interactions with them in our communities. We can tell them our medical concerns. That would be gone if Essentia took control of our hospital and clinic. The services our hospital offers would not be locally governed. Rather, they would be governed by individuals whose first concern is not the citizens of our area; it would be the Essentia medical giant and its bottom line.

Essentia has established clinics in communities such as Sandstone, Virginia, Superior and Deer River, which had their own community hospitals. Now they are all under the Essentia umbrella. The services and medical personnel that CMH now offers to this community and surrounding area is remarkable, as one reads in the Pine Knot article, thanks to our CEO and our hospital board. It is also easy to see why Essentia would like to someday say, "Look what we now offer in Cloquet!" on an Essentia sign outside the former CMH building.

Whether CMH/Raiter Clinic can remain independent I believe depends on one thing: that we in our community patronize our hospital and clinic for our medical needs first. I personally know, from recently having heart surgery in Essentia, that there are certain surgeries and medical procedures that our hospital cannot perform. However, our community hospital can do much more than many realize. It is my hope that we all recognize the medical jewel we have on the hill overlooking our town.

Writer and Cloquet resident Dennis Morreim is a former hospital chaplain at Community Memorial Hospital and an area pastor.


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