ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

VA Clinic: No plans to leave Twin Ports

From senators to neighbors, everyone wants to know the status of the Twin Ports VA Outpatient Clinic. The thriving clinic, which leases space at St. Mary's Hospital in Superior, provides primary care to 5,450 veterans from Wisconsin, Minnesota, M...

From senators to neighbors, everyone wants to know the status of the Twin Ports VA Outpatient Clinic.

The thriving clinic, which leases space at St. Mary's Hospital in Superior, provides primary care to 5,450 veterans from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and even Canada. Despite a current bid process, officials say it isn't going anywhere.

"At this point we have no plans to leave the Twin Ports area," said Mary Kolosky, clinic operations manager.

The clinic's 20-year lease with St. Mary's ends in August 2009 with no more options for renewal. By law, the lease must go out for the normal bidding process, according to Kolosky.

There is no intention to turn the clinic over to a private health care company, officials say.

ADVERTISEMENT

"This will remain a VA-operated clinic," said Ralph Heussner, spokesman for the clinic's parent facility, the Minneapolis VA Medical Center.

Both officials said the current bid process is nothing like a proposal four years ago that set off a flood of public protests and led to a rally in front of the clinic.

"There is no negativity associated with this in any way, shape or form," Kolosky said.

At that time, VA administrators were considering switching operation of the clinic, then 15 years old, to a private health care company. The proposal was made because of an inability to hire a medical director.

That turned around when Kolosky and Medical Director Dr. Clyde Markon were hired. Within six months, there was no more waiting list for services.

"It needed leadership, competent leadership, VA-experienced leadership," Kolosky said. "It got that."

Consequently, the lease was extended another five years, operating on annual renewals.

"It's a good clinic with great leadership," Heussner said. "Veterans seem to be pleased with it."

ADVERTISEMENT

Although officials are committed to keeping the clinic in the area, that doesn't mean it will stay at St. Mary's. The hospital is centrally located and veterans are familiar with the facility and the location.

"We would like to remain there," Heussner said. "However we must have this public process."

The bid process gives all interested parties a chance to make a proposal, he said, but there are "a limited number of potential sites."

According to Kim Kaiser, spokeswoman for St. Mary's-Duluth Clinic Health System, the system plans to submit a bid to keep the Veteran's Clinic in Superior.

"It is a good fit with our hospital and clinic," she said.

A space-needs assessment showed the current St. Mary's Hospital site is big enough for the busy clinic, Kolosky said, but the 1989 floor plan "is no longer meeting our needs."

For example, administrators are interested in adding physical and occupational therapy departments.

Whether the new lease means a move or remodeling, Heussner said, "we will not stop care in any scenario."

ADVERTISEMENT

As the bid process moves along, the clinic is growing. Three new clerical support staff began work on Sept. 15 and the clinic is seeking to add a physician and lab support staff.

Although the bid process appears normal, it is under close scrutiny. U.S. Sen. Russ sent a letter to the Minneapolis VA Medical Center last month requesting the status of the lease and possibility of after-hours care at the site. Closer to home, Douglas County Board Chairman Doug Finn plans to meet with hospital and clinic staff this week to check on the leasing process.

"Things appear to be OK, but it's hard to keep your finger on it," he said.

The new lease is expected to be long-term, but Heussner could not say whether that meant five or 20 years.

"This is not going to be a year-to-year deal," he said.

While the space needs assessment has been submitted, the clinic will not begin soliciting bids for a couple of months, according to Heussner.

This story first appeared on superiortelegram.com.

Related Topics: SUPERIOR
What To Read Next
The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.