SCBHS studying full affiliation with CentraCare

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By Reed Anfinson
With Swift County-Benson Health Services governing board entering its third year of a three-year management services agreement with CentraCare Health of St. Cloud it is now looking at whether to proceed with a full merger.
The governing board’s strategic planning committee will be presenting a report to the full board at its Dec. 20 meeting on its review of the past two years. It will also address what the next steps for affiliation with the regional healthcare provider should be taken.
It is assessing whether or not SCBHS has been getting the services promised by CentraCare just over two years ago and will look more closely at what full integration might look like.
While the contract doesn’t end until December 2022, Chief Nursing Officer and Co-CEO Melissa McGinty-Thompson told the Swift County Board of Commissioners at their Nov. 16 meeting that now is the time to start looking at what happens at the end of next year.
“I think our goal at our Dec. 20 board meeting is to present the work we are doing the CentraCare committee to the full board,” Co-CEO and Director of Finance for SCBHS Dan Enderson said
“What I would like to see, and I think it is going to happen, is that a decision will get made earlier in the year than later,’ he said. “We are not going to wait until next September to figure that out. We will see some clarity on that direction sometime in 2022 so we can plan accordingly.”
SCBHS would like to think that the concerns CentraCare expressed about its financial status in 2019 has seen significant change in the right direction, he said. “That is the feeling we are getting,” he said.
Over the past two years, there hasn’t just been a significant improvement in SCBHS’s financial position, they organizations have gotten to know each other a lot better.
“COVID has forced a closer relationship with CentraCare and it has been a very positive thing for us,” McGinty-Thompson said. “We are able to tap into a lot of their experts. We were able work in collaboration with their (COVID-19) incident command team so we were all working on the same projects without duplicating  a lot of the same efforts.”
Through the process, SCBHS staff has been learning about the people and resources available through CentraCare, she said.
“We have also been receiving patients from them so they can now see the kind of partner that we can be for them, and they have been able to see first-hand what we can do,” McGinty-Thompson said.
SCBHS has been taking patients from CentraCare and Carris Health,  freeing space for patients needing critical care during the COVID-19 surge being seen statewide. While it doesn’t have the facilities to provide the intensive care treatment required by some COVID-19 patients, by taking on patients from its facilities in need of a lower level of care, it frees beds for the critically ill.
Swift County-Benson Health Services is a public facility with Swift County and the City of Benson having the final authority on major financial and management decisions.

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