Western ND hospitals experience "growing pains"

Jul 2, 2012

The increasing population in the oil patch has hospitals in the area looking at expansion. The story from Prairie Public's Dave Thompson.

Gary Miller is the CEO of Bismarck’s St. Alexius Medical Center. He says the hospital is seeing an increasing demand for beds.

"We've been full in a number of areas," Miller said. "We've tried to hold patients in the emergency room while we're opening up in-patient beds and acute beds. We're going to have to seriously look at additional in-patient bed capability, because of what we're seeing in terms of volume growth in the west."

Miller said that gets into capital expenditures and additional staffing. He says as an example, St. A's needs more nursing staff -- not only at the hospital, but at its satellite clinics.

"We've had inquiries from California and Hawaii," said Miller. "That's great -- but one of the things they're sharing with us is, 'We'd love to come, but we can't find an affordable place to live.' Housing -- even in Bismarck-Mandan -- is becoming problematic."

Minot’s TrinityMedicalCenteris planning to open more clinics in and around Minot– including one on North Hill in Minot. And it will soon open a new clinic in Williston. Trinity is also planning a new hospital for Minot– to replace the existing downtown facilities.

"Land was purchased a number of years ago, in anticipation of moving forward with a hospital replacement in the future," said Trinity vice-president Randy Schwan. "The future is actually condensed."

Schwan said when the land was purchased, the plan was to have a new hospital within 20 years. "I thing the current thought is we will be moving forward with design and building within the next few years."

Schwan says Trinity has also beefed-up its medical staffing.

"Four years ago, we were in the low 100s with members of our medical staff," Schwan said. "Today we stand at more than 180. And we're not finished."

Schwan said Trinity has an aggressive recruitment plan in place.

"We're going to bring on as many as we need to," said Schwan. "There's no end in sight at this point."

Schwan said three new doctors will be coming on-staff this summer to the Williston clinic. He also said Trinity has become the busiest trauma center in North Dakota.