City of Fosston, Essentia Health headed to arbitration over discontinuation of obstetric services

(Fosston, MN) – Tensions are rising in northwestern Minnesota over the discontinuation of obstetric care at a local hospital.

“The City of Fosston has been in a dispute with Essentia,” Fosston Mayor Jim Offerdahl said in an interview with WDAY Radio News on Saturday. “The primary dispute is over the discontinuing of OB services at the Fosston hospital, diverting deliveries of babies to their Detroit Lakes hospital.”

He said the health system started diverting deliveries ”without providing notice to the city.”

“Proper notice was not given before they discontinued deliveries, and that was a violation of the affiliation agreement, as well as a violation of state statute, not giving notice to the Department of Health,” he said.

Offerdahl said the City has gone through steps to resolve the issue, but mediation between the two sides resulted in an impasse. The next step is arbitration, which is scheduled to begin July 8th.

“We expect a final decision,” he said. “And with that, the right to terminate our agreement with Essentia to be handed down by the arbitration panel sometime in probably mid-August.”

First Care Health Services, a 501c3 formed by the City of Fosston in 1993 to operate the hospital, ran the hospital until 2009, when Essentia took over the operation.

Offerdahl said a survey has been going out via text message and phone calls, with questions being asked such as does a resident trust the mayor, city council or the City of Fosston to operate the hospital.

The origin of the survey is not known at this time.

“I've had a number of people that contacted me after they began to fill it out and realized that this was a pretty strange survey, and they started to think it was maybe even spam,” Offerdahl said. “And so the origin of it, we don't know for absolute certain because Essentia has not admitted to being behind it.”

The First Care Task Force is being formed after a resolution passed the City Council calling for it. The task force will “support and assist to facilitate the operation of the Fosston Hospital by First Care Medical Services upon the potential termination of the affiliation agreement with Essentia Health Corporation.”

WDAY Radio News has reached out to Essentia Health officials for comment on this news story, but have not received a response as of the time of publication of this news story.

Original Air Date: 
Saturday, April 13, 2024