Altru in midst of valuation process as part of Devils Lake health care collaboration

Campus will be a partnership between Altru, Essentia Health, City of Devils Lake and Spirit Lake Nation

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In this Herald file photo, Doug Yankton, chairman of the Spirit Lake Nation, Dr. David Herman, CEO of Essentia Health, Dr. Josh Deere, president of Altru, and Devils Lake Mayor Jim Moe sign a letter of intent to collaborate on a new medical campus including a new hospital.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS – Altru is in the midst of placing a value on the system's care in the immediate Devils Lake area, part of the ongoing process to create a new health care center in the Ramsey County community 90 miles west of Grand Forks.

The efforts are part of a four-entity collaboration that also includes Essentia Health, the city of Devil’s Lake and the Spirit Lake Nation.

Altru already has a clinic of approximately 100 staff — 12 of them health care providers — in Devils Lake, which Altru CEO Todd Forkel says will be a valuable asset to the partnership.

“We continue to be excited about the possibilities of this partnership,” said Forkel. "Essentia has taken the lead on the design phase of this. Our role in the collaboration thus far is valuing our practice out there. We have excellent providers and staff – they are known, they do a great job – so we’re going through the valuation process. It’s taking a little longer than we thought, but we need to have that buttoned up before we can work on joint venture language, so we can sit around the table without violating antitrust laws.”

Forkel said the valuation process involves more than just appraising the clinic’s financial outcomes – such as revenue and expenses — but also its health care outcomes.


“Just like when you appraise a house, that’s what this is – a valuation,” said Forkel. “An external partner that you hire comes in and looks under the hood – your revenue, expenses, how many babies you deliver, just the whole piece of it. Then they’ll come back to us and Essentia and say ‘this practice is worth a certain amount.’”

Dr. Joshua Deere, president of Altru and a practicing family physician, said that while recruitment issues plague rural communities, Altru's existing clinic in Devil’s Lake provides residents with high quality care.

“It’s hard to recruit to Devils Lake,” said Deere. “We have a stable medical practice there that does a great job with great local leadership. They’re delivering things like OB care with C-sections – and that’s something we'll obviously continue for that community.”

Forkel, who took over as CEO of Altru last year after serving in the Avera system in South Dakota, concurred with Deere. Forkel believes Altru does a good job of ensuring its rural clinics have highly trained physicians on site.

“One of the things I noticed coming from Avera – a great health system – is that I think Altru has done a phenomenal job with our depth of recruitment at our regional sites,” said Forkel.

Forkel said he hopes to have the valuation of Altru’s services in Devils Lake completed within the next 60 days, with joint venture language to follow.

“Once that language is agreed upon, we can get in a room together and talk about really granular specifics,” said Forkel. “We want to be careful to do the steps correctly, because while we’re friendly with Essentia, we are still competitors. The uniqueness of this collaboration is the challenge of incorporating all of its moving parts.”

Banish covers news pertaining to K-12 and higher education, as well as county commission coverage.
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