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Guest view: Support your local hospital

I was saddened when I learned that Sunnyside nursing home was going to be closed.

But I was not surprised, since they had been operating at a loss for many years. Reimbursement was not keeping up with expenses so the inevitable was bound to happen. Sunnyside was 5-star-rated for many years, even though it was old and outdated. I have heard many positive comments about its operation thanks to the friendly staff and sound administration. It was indeed a real asset for our community. I feel sorry for the residents who considered it their home and who will have to adjust to a new environment.

This is not an unusual situation, as many other nursing homes in Minnesota have closed or will close because funding has not kept up with costs. If this action were not taken, I believe CMH would have struggled to remain financially operational and independent. There are fewer and fewer independent hospitals left in Minnesota, as they have been taken over by conglomerates. CMH is a vital part of our community and a major employer and economic driver. CMH has much to offer with the ease of parking, friendly staff, specialists and other conveniences. Do not take this for granted, as we certainly do not want it to close or be taken over by someone else.

I know what effect the closing of a hospital can have on a community. My hometown of Albert Lea recently lost its independent hospital, which was taken over by a large southern Minnesota hospital group. The hospital was then closed to become an outpatient clinic.

For many years, the largest employer in the city was the Wilson & Co. meat packing plant, referred to as “hog college” when I graduated from high school. When the plant closed, the hospital became the largest employer in the city.

I visited Albert Lea several months ago. We toured the downtown area and were surprised at how dismal it looked with many empty stores. It is no longer the thriving community that I grew up in.

We also visited one of my longtime friends. He recently suffered through a stroke. He said at the onset, he went to the ER in the clinic. The ER was overwhelmed with patients waiting to be seen. He waited over six hours before he was able to see a doctor. He was then sent by ambulance to the hospital in Austin, about 20 miles away, only to learn there were no beds available. So he had to go for anoather ambulance ride to Mason City, Iowa. That was a 45-mile ride but he was admitted and spent a few days there. He said it was truly a day from hell, but he was glad that he had no aftereffects except for extreme fatigue.

The bottom line of my story is to urge you to support our local hospital. It would indeed be heartbreaking if we should lose that vital part of our community. As a major employer in Cloquet, it does indeed play a large role in the economic and physical wellbeing and quality of our community.

Cloquet resident Al Alm is a former CMH board member.