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PIONEER EDITORIAL: Sanford Bemidji solidly looks to the future

The Bemidji region continues to grow and one of the drivers of that is the availability of health care options to local and area residents.

And that, too, continues to grow. Sanford Bemidji recently submitted plans to the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board on its ideas for future expansion at its campus in north Bemidji. Already in the works are the Joe Lueken Cancer Center, scheduled to open in summer 2018. But Sanford also has ideas on expanding its emergency center, as well as possibly another addition beyond that, labeled on documents as a “heart center,” though officials were quick to say nothing has been confirmed at this point.

Still, the plans are encouraging in that Sanford Bemidji plans to grow its footprint in the community. Already a sprawling campus with multiple buildings and services, these future additions will only enhance health care options for the region.

And, as Pioneer reporter Joe Bowen detailed in story last week, even with those projects, there is still a lot of space left to grow for Sanford and the community. Sanford has many acres at the campus that could be developed in the future; by Sanford or by working with various partners at the federal, state or local level.

The idea of a Bemidji YMCA located in the area makes sense, as do other health-based initiatives.

The most critical of these would be a veterans home located on the campus. Also last week, the Beltrami County Veterans Task Force met to again call on lawmakers at the state and federal level to locate a new veterans facility in Bemidji.

As of 2015, the latest year figures are available, an estimated 27,658 veterans live in northwestern Minnesota. A Bemidji home and medical facility is critical in taking care of our veterans.

This project has been in the works for the past decade, and although some progress has been made, local officials say they are no closer to the facility coming to fruition than they were three years ago.

“We’re at square one. We have a new crop of legislators in there and they’re wrestling with the biennium budget and working with the governor,” Beltrami County Veterans Service Officer Scotty Allison told the task force. “Are we closer than we were 10 years ago? Yes. But are we further along than we were three years ago? I don’t think so.”

That has to change.

As with other projects, the continued growth of Sanford Bemidji’s various health care initiatives will only benefit to the success of those projects, as well as benefit the region as a whole.