MLHS announces building project

by Mary Rains

Mille Lacs Health System


At the MLHS Annual Shareholders’ meeting on November 15, an announcement was made about the new Phase IV building project, which the board of directors has approved. Improvements include a two-story addition for 17 patient rooms; a larger Emergency Department, which will offer patients more privacy; and a new kitchen and cafeteria. 

The fundraising campaign will begin in 2019, with construction beginning possibly in the spring of 2020. “We have a great medical campus and our facilities and maintenance crew and staff have kept it functioning,” MLHS Board chair Kevin Anderson said. “But, parts of the original building built in 1956 – that’s 62 years ago – need to be replaced. For the most part, that is what this project is about. Our board wants to make sure the Mille Lacs community continues to have access to the best medical care possible.”

Anderson also talked about the new MLHS Strategic Plan, developed by the board in November of 2017. Some of the points of the plan include enhancing patient access through growth; exploring strategic affiliations, as well as enhancing community relationships; and creating an exceptional patient experience. 

Bill Nelson, MLHS CEO, told the over 100 members at the dinner that their support “past, present, and hopefully future allows us to provide the highest quality care for our patients and residents.” Nelson went on to add, “The strong support from the Foundation and the Auxiliary is also very much appreciated.”

In other matters, CFO John Unzen laid out the financial statements, pointing to the fact that one of the key strategies in the board’s vision is to position MLHS to be able to afford major capital projects. “Our fiscal growth is paving the way for this,” Unzen noted. “Our goal is always to continue to grow net revenue while controlling expenses.”

Dr. Tom Bracken gave the medical affairs and staff report, and said that two new Physician Assistants – Bess Kuzma and Travis Green – have been hired and will begin their duties in March. The PAs both did clinical rotations at MLHS, and also completed a needs assessment project at MLHS involving alternatives to opioids in pain management. They are both recent grads from St. Catherine University’s Master in Physician Assistant Studies program.

Dennis Burr, Mille Lacs Area Health Foundation president, gave a report on all the group’s accomplishments, including scholarships, children’s dental services, local school backpack programs, senior dining, and early childhood. “We were successful in meeting our 2018 fundraising goal for much-needed equipment at MLHS,” Burr said. “Thanks to everyone who donated or came to our fundraisers.”

MLHS Auxiliary President Judy Waytashek spoke about the support the Auxiliary gives to the community and also to MLHS. Their list of donations include funds for the Isle Days Walk/Run, Operation Community Connect, making items for nursing home residents, and donations to many of the Mille Lacs Area Health Foundation projects. She also congratulated Auxiliary member Marian Veaason on her many years of service and her recent Volunteer of the Year Award from the Minnesota Association of Healthcare Volunteers.