DEVILS LAKE – Amid discussions about the future of CHI St. Alexius Devils Lake and as community meetings are planned in the next two weeks, the hospital has been operating with an interim president.

Andrew Lankowicz, president of the Devils Lake Hospital for the past six years, separated from the hospital in late May. When reached last week by telephone, Lankowicz declined to give a reason for his departure. Calls by the Herald to CHI St. Alexius Health Carrington Medical Center President Mariann Doeling, who is serving as interim president of the Devils Lake hospital, seeking information related to Lankowicz's departure were not returned. Calls to Devils Lake Mayor Richard Johnson and to Terry Johnston, Devils Lake city administrator, also were not returned.

In February 2021, Lankowicz was listed as one of four candidates for CEO of River’s Edge Hospital and Clinic in St. Peter, Minn., on that health care provider’s website. The position was filled by Paula Meskan, who was serving as River’s Edge interim CEO.

Earlier this month, Grand Forks-based Altru Health System sent 4,000 emailed letters to Devils Lake residents that outlined the company’s commitment to the community. Altru has confirmed that it has had discussions with CHI Alexius Health Devils Lake that could lead to managing or buying the hospital.

The letter, signed by Dave Molmen, Altru’s interim CEO; Steven Weiser, Altru’s president; Amber Stokke, manager of the Altru Clinic in Devils Lake; and Stephanie Foughty, chairwoman of the Altru Clinic in Devils Lake, referred to failed negotiations between CommonSpirit Health, which owns the hospital in Devils Lake, and Essentia Health, another regional provider.

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Altru has scheduled community listening sessions this month to discuss the future of Devils Lake health care. The sessions will be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 15, and Tuesday, July 20, in the dining room at Lake Region State College, in Devils Lake.

Administrators and physicians at Altru Clinic in Devils Lake and Altru executives will lead the discussions.

"We are seeking the community's support to pursue this health care future in Devils Lake," Foughty said in a news release. "Health care is a cornerstone of any community, and impacts not only the health of its residents, but also the vibrancy of the community itself. A locally owned, integrated health system ensures our residents can access the world-class care they deserve right in their community, well into the future."

Altru’s model for Devils Lake is that the Devils Lake hospital would be community owned and managed by Altru. Under the proposed model, the staff at the hospital and clinic would keep their jobs, and funds would remain local. Care between the hospital and clinic and specialized needs would remain part of a unified system managed by Altru, the Altru news release said.