Altru looking to partner with CHI: What we know so far

K. William Boyer
Devils Lake Journal

DEVILS LAKE - CHI St. Alexis Hospital has been a local staple for healthcare in Devils Lake for decades. But with limited resources the has patients having to travel to Grand Forks and other area hospitals for specialty care, many have been wondering its fate for years. 

Last year, CHI was in talks to sell to another corporation, Essentia. But after negotiations fell through, another, more local area organization has show interest in joining forces with the local establishment. 

CHI St. Alexis could become a property of Altru Health as the organization expresses interest in purchasing the local establishment.

Recently, Altru Health, whose primary base is located out of Grand Forks, began discussions about options of strengthening the local health care in the area, including buying St. Alexis or building a hospital in town. 

Dr. Steven Weiser, president of Altru Health, said buying St. Alexis would be the most responsible choice and they have reached our to CHI to discuss it. 

"Altru wants the CHI communities to continue to grow," Weiser said. "Buying the hospital would be one of the options of how we could see that happening. but it is not the only way." 

Weiser said they have also discussed with the city about having Devils Lake itself purchase the hospital and then having Altru partner with it as a health care service provider. 

Altru currently operates a clinic in the area and has physicians and staff who work in the area on a limited basis.

"There are several communities where the community itself owns its own hospital." he said. "Even if you went that route, we believe we would be the best organization to partner with to provide you with healthcare.  We are committed to Devils Lake. We have been here for over 20 years. You would still have to hold us accountable to the standards you expect of us." 

 Meghan Compton, Altru's Chief Clinical Officer, said Altru believes they can serve the community more in depth, providing opportunities to provide general surgery and dialysis care to Devils Lake in short time and provide more specialty care options at a later date. 

"Dialysis we know is a big issue in the state," Compton said. "We currently have 17 people alone in Devils lake on the waiting list." 

 Altru representatives said if they bought St. Alexis, they would work to invest in updates to allow them to provide more services to the community.  They also said they planned on keeping all the staff currently at the hospital.  

The organization held several community feed back sessions over the past few weeks.  some questions brought up included the following: 

  • What would happen to the critical care status at CHI if you bought the hospital? Altru indicated if they purchased the hospital that would not change.  It was pointed out that if they built a hospital, it was speculated that CHI might lose their critical care status if Altru built a hospital as there can only be one critical care hospital in the area. at a time. 
  • Could Altru Afford to buy the hospital? Altru said their finances have been approving over the past nine months and believes if managed effectively, St. Alexis would be very successful. 
  • Is Altru trying to buy hospitals in other states like South Dakota and Minnesota as well. No. Altru is committed to be a local health organization. 
  • There is a problem with referrals, I can never get referred back. There needs to be a better understanding among doctors on needs of hospitals - when to send away and when to keep local.

Altru currently operates a clinic in the area and has physicians and staff who work in the area on a limited basis. 

Devils Lake Journal will continue to follow this story as it progresses. Stay tuned!