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Millions to fight pandemic granted to Essentia, St. Luke's

The $3 million given to each is among $50 million the state distributed in its first round of emergency funding.

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St. Luke's hospital as seen from the air on March 1, 2017. (File/ News Tribune)
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Essentia Health and St. Luke’s each will receive $3 million from the state to bolster their efforts to fight the COVID-19 epidemic.

And that might not be the end of it.

The grants are among $50 million given to about 350 organizations statewide, the Minnesota Department of Health reported in a news release Wednesday. The money is part a $200 million emergency investment in the healthcare system that the Minnesota Legislature approved last month.

MDH will begin taking applications for the remaining $150 million next week, the agency reported.

Only a handful of health systems received more cash than Essentia and St. Luke’s in the first round. Hennepin County Medical Center and Fairview Health each received $5 million; HealthPartners $4 million and Allina Health System $3.5 million.

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Many applicants received less than they hoped for, or nothing at all. MDH reported it received more than 1,600 grant requests in the first round seeking a total of more than $300 million.

St. Luke’s applied for more than it received and will ask for more in the second round, CEO Kevin Nokels said. The first grant cycle was for expenses anticipated in April as organizations prepare for a surge of COVID-19 patients. St. Luke’s already has spent $2 million on that, Nokels said.

Among other things, the hospital is in the process of increasing its capacity. When the phased-in expansion is completed, the number of emergency department rooms will have risen from 14 to 39, the number of intensive care unit rooms from 25 to 81 and the number of general medical and surgical beds from 167 to 237. Additional hospital beds, ventilators and patient monitors have been purchased, Nokels said.

Essentia Health also did not get all of the money it sought, said Kate Dean, executive director of the Essentia Health Institute of Rural Health, who led the grant-writing effort.

The grant will reimburse Essentia for money it already has spent in preparation for an influx of COVID-19 cases, Dean said. That includes $1 million spent on 30 ventilators for Essentia hospitals in Duluth, Brainerd and Detroit Lakes.

Essentia also has set up remote sites to test for the new coronavirus in Duluth, Virginia, Detroit Lakes and the Brainerd-Baxter area, Dean said, and has set up isolation areas for patients being treated for the illness at a number of sites.

Essentia will seek additional grant money in the second round, she said.

Neither Essentia nor St. Luke’s will be able to use grant money to call back employees who have been laid off, officials of both said. Essentia laid off about 500 employees two weeks ago. St. Luke’s has laid off 14, chief financial officer Eric Lohn said.

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St. Luke’s currently is spending $4 million more per week than it’s taking in, Nokels said.

In addition to health systems and hospitals, grants went to assisted-living providers, clinics, community health centers, ambulance services and tribal health agencies.

St. Luke's and Essentia are also recipients of a monetary donation from the Duluth-based Maurices company. Maurices, which has 900 stores in more than 900 communities, announced Wednesday that it is donating $250,000 to rural hospitals, including in Duluth.

"We are not sharing specific amounts by hospital as varies slightly by service area," Maurices said in a statement.

Among numerous recipients of MDH grants in the Northland, the Fond du Lac Human Services division will receive $213,986.

Additional grants affecting the Northland

Assisted-living facilities

Benedictine Living Community of Duluth — $90,100

Edgewood Virginia Senior Living — $42,250

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Community health centers

Lake Superior Community Health Center — $24,986

Sawtooth Mountain Clinic, Grand Marais — $181,492

Hospitals, health systems

Bigfork Valley, Northern Itasca Hospital District — $75,000

Community Memorial Hospital, Cloquet — $75,000

Cook Hospital — $75,000

Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital — $75,000

Fairview Range, Range Regional Health Services — $200,000

Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital — $300,000

Lake View Hospital, Two Harbors — $75,000

Mercy Hospital, Moose Lake — $75,000

Tribal health

Bois Forte Reservation — $43,193

Grand Portage Band — $58,986

Among the numerous ambulance services in the region

Hoyt Lakes Fire Department Ambulance — $51,800

Cloquet Area Fire District — $59,950

Ely Area Ambulance Service — $50,000

Eveleth Ambulance — $42,000

Hibbing Ambulance Service — $49,000

Mayo Clinic Ambulance — $50,620

Virginia Fire Department — $60,000

News Tribune staff writer Andee Erickson contributed to this report.

This story was updated at 5:51 p.m. April 8 to include additional information about grant recipients. It was originally posted at 12:29 p.m. April 8.

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The Maurices headquarters building in downtown Duluth. (News Tribune file photo)

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