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Clearwater Health Services to partner with Sanford Health

The Clearwater County Board announced Wednesday it signed a six-month management agreement with Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota for Clearwater Health Services.

Once approved by Sanford the contract will be effective April 1. CHS includes the county's Memorial Hospital in Bagley, with the attached CHS clinic, the Clearwater Ambulance Service and the CHS clinic in Clearbrook.

As part of the agreement Sanford Health will provide CHS with leadership from Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota, based out of Bemidji. During the agreement CHS will remain under local community ownership and will be governed by the local board of directors. Further assessment will determine the future of the relationship between Sanford and CHS.

Sanford will provide management and consulting services in several areas during the six-month agreement. Benefits of the partnership could include continued availability of local care, access to additional services and doctors, efficiencies that come with being part of a larger health system such as management/consulting services and readily available expertise to help address today's increasingly complex health care environment.

For several months the board of Clearwater Health Services had been involved in a controversial deal regarding the contract for deed struck two years ago between the county commissioners to sell the county's Clearwater Health Services to Cocoon Holdings, owned and run by brother physicians, Drs. Tom and Mark Peterson, who founded the Aurora Medical Park in Grand Forks, as well as Monarch Management that runs CHS.

In early February the board of Clearwater Health Services sent an official notice of default to Cocoon Holdings and Monarch Management after the Grand Forks firms failed to meet a deadline to pay off a contract for deed amounting to about $3.8 million.

Bagley, population 1,235, is located 28 miles west of Bemidji and 110 miles northeast of Fargo-Moorhead. The Memorial Hospital is a 25-bed critical access hospital owned by Clearwater County and established in 1949. Clearwater Health Services employs approximately 80 people, serving residents of Clearwater County with a combined county population of approximately 8,250.

"This six-month partnership with Sanford will supply us with the expertise needed to provide a stable environment for our patients and staff. This time will allow us to evaluate the healthcare needs of our communities, and develop requests for proposals for the future sale of CHS," Daniel Stenseng, Clearwater County Board Chair said in a press release.

Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota, inclusive of Sanford Bemidji, has more than 1,450 employees, 75 doctors and 118 acute care beds and is part of the Sanford Health system based in Fargo, ND and Sioux Falls, SD. Sanford is the largest, rural, not-for-profit healthcare system in the nation with a presence in 111 communities in eight states.