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'New competitor'

The future Aurora Hospital in south Grand Forks would have 66 beds and 200 staff members according to plans filed with the city planning department.

The future Aurora Hospital in south Grand Forks would have 66 beds and 200 staff members according to plans filed with the city planning department.

Plans also call for a two-story more than 200,000-square-foot structure.

According to online records from the North Dakota and Minnesota departments of health, the 66 beds would make the hospital the seventh-largest certified general hospital within about 100 miles of Grand Forks.

"I think it would be good in the sense there is competition and there is a potential for an improved quality of services," said David Flynn, director of UND's Bureau of Business & Economic Research.

Flynn said based on its projected number of employees, the new hospital could have an economic impact of $20 million on the local economy. The hospital could have $14 million in direct economic impact on the area from hospital spending with another $6 million expected in indirect spending, Flynn said.


"It would be a potentially big impact on the local economy," Flynn said.


Late last week representatives of Aurora Medical Center LLC announced they were going ahead with plans for what would be the only for-profit hospital in North Dakota. A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for this fall and the hospital is expected to be complete by fall 2009.

Preliminary site work has begun, but construction has yet to start on the future hospital.

Ryan Brooks, a senior planner with the city planning department, said his office still needs a few things from hospital developers before construction can begin, but that he thought construction would probably start in the next couple weeks.

"We're real close on it," Brooks said.

Aurora representatives tried unsuccessfully earlier this year to win City Council approval for a five-year property tax exemption. At the time, the value of the hospital was expected to total $21.5 million, resulting in savings of $2.6 million to Aurora investors.

When attempting to win city council approval, Aurora representatives estimated the new hospital would have 70 beds and bring 150 new jobs in its first five years and eventually top out at 500.


Evolving plansBut Aurora spokesperson April Steffan said plans for the hospital have changed since then and continue to evolve as the final details are still being worked out.

"It's not accurate to say the plan is the same," Steffan said. "They had to change things when the tax abatement failed."

Not-for-profit Altru Hospital, which has 261 beds, is currently the only hospital in Grand Forks. Altru, one of the region's largest employers, has 2,833 full-time employees and 3,723 full-and-part-time workers at its hospital, clinic, rehab center, other services and 11 branch clinics in North Dakota and Minnesota.

"I don't think it would be a plus for them, let's put it that way," Flynn said of Altru. "There is a new competitor in town."

Steffan would not comment on what services the new hospital will offer, but with its size it is not expected to offer as many services as Altru Hospital.

Flynn also said that if "Altru is providing a better service, I don't think they have much to fear from a new competitor."

Attempts to reach Altru officials for comment about the new Aurora Hospital were unsuccessful Monday.



in commutesFlynn said adding a second hospital in Grand Forks could cut down on the number of local residents who travel to Fargo for medical attention.

The MeritCare Health System has a total of 583 beds in two hospitals in Fargo.

MeritCare spokesman Darren Huber said in a prepared statement that "MeritCare is constantly keeping abreast of potential changes in our marketplace" but that "competition is good" and MeritCare will remain focused on delivering "exceptional service and extraordinary care."

The new Aurora Hospital also could take patients and staff away from smaller community hospitals.

"With any community our size where you have a larger regional medical center that close, you have people that chose to go there," said Joy Johnson, vice president of the 25-bed RiverView Hospital in Crookston.

But Johnson said that while the new hospital may cause some locals to go to Aurora instead of Altru, she said she doesn't think that many more Crookston-area residents would leave her hospital for the new Aurora Hospital.

"We are more of a local, community-based hospital," Johnson said. "I would guess it will have a minimal impact."

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