The entry of a chain of for-profit urgent care clinics into Duluth and Cloquet seems to have hospital officials unruffled.

“God bless them,” said John Strange, CEO of St. Luke’s hospital. “Competition is an ongoing thing.”

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The company, MedExpress, plans to locate its seven-day-a-week clinics in Cloquet before the end of the year and in Duluth before winter is over, spokesperson Annie Jamieson said. She didn’t know the specific locations, she said, but the Duluth Planning Commission at its Sept. 13 meeting approved constructing a new building for the clinic at West Myrtle Street and West Central Entrance, adjacent to Residence Inn.

Minnesota is the 15th state for MedExpress, Jamieson said, and it will have more than 200 clinics in those states by the end of the year. It plans 19 clinics in Minnesota, two of which - in Eden Prairie and Plymouth - have opened.

“Our facilities are beautiful, warm, welcoming centers,” she said. “It’s a consistent experience.”

Jamieson said MedExpress clinics bring “additional value” to communities that is different from what’s offered at hospital emergency rooms.

“For everyday illness and injury, MedExpress is a great option,” she said. “It’s convenient help for non-emergency care.”

But Community Memorial Hospital already offers an urgent care clinic in its building in Cloquet, and Essentia Health and St. Luke’s both offer several urgent care clinics. St. Luke’s also has its “Q Care Express Clinics” at Cub Foods and at its Mount Royal Clinic. Those clinics treat the most basic cases and are staffed by a nurse practitioner but not a medical doctor, Strange said.

“It’s very handy for parents with young children and for college students,” he said.

In a statement, Steve Jorgensen, chief operating officer for Essentia Health-East, showed no distress about the entrance of a new rival in the market.

“Patients and families are looking for new ways to get the appropriate level of care they need, through Essentia Health or other providers’ convenient care, urgent care and primary care clinics,” Jorgensen said. “We welcome MedExpress to the Northland as it provides convenient access and serves a niche for minor health concerns.”

MedExpress was founded in 2001 and was purchased last year by the Optum division of Minnesota-based UnitedHealth Group.

Its clinics are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and are closed only on Thanksgiving and Christmas, Jamieson said. The clinics accept most major insurance, she said, and “we offer affordable pricing for those without insurance.”

A new location typically opens with 20-25 employees, Jamieson said. On Friday, the company’s website showed 19 job openings in Cloquet and Duluth.