As published in The Watertown Public Opinion on Friday, May 11.
National Hospital Week is a time to celebrate our staff and recognize our accomplishments. We look at what brought Prairie Lakes Healthcare System (PLHS) to where it is today. It can be summed up in one, simple word: Growth. But there was nothing simple in achieving our extraordinary growth over the past decade and a half.
PLHS’s growth started as a strategic decision by the PLHS Board of Directors fifteen years ago to step up from the traditional community hospital profile of services – emergency room, obstetrics, surgical and inpatient services - to a commitment to develop and sustain specialty services. We knew these specialties were not typically found in a community our size, such as cardiology, vascular surgery, urology, pulmonology, nephrology, dermatology and others. But the decision was of the best interest to provide access to needed services in our region.
Armed with a medical staff development plan to show the types of medical and surgical specialties we could support in our 10-county service area with a population of 90,000, we recruited physicians to lead and develop new healthcare services. In 2003, Prairie Lakes employed one specialty physician and today we employ twenty-three. The local medical staff also includes physicians affiliated with Sanford Clinic, Brown Clinic, Glacial Lakes Orthopaedics and several other providers in private practice. We are truly blessed in this community to have this medical talent and expertise. Physicians are attracted to Watertown because of the community’s quality of life, the independence of the hospital, and the overall quality of the healthcare system.
Also critical to our growth is a collaborative market strategy focused on improving access to services in Northeast South Dakota and bordering Minnesota counties. In our ten-county service area, we have established relationships with nine small hospitals. We are also expanding beyond our traditional service areas including a cardiology relationship in Tyler, Minnesota and nephrology services in Huron. Our approach is to partner rather than compete. We have assisted small hospitals in developing services to keep patients close to home for healthcare. For example, Prairie Lakes surgeons perform procedures in Sisseton and Ortonville and our Cancer Center helped develop infusion services in Dawson and Milbank. These practices of collaboration add scale across a region of small providers. Our decision not to compete with primary care providers in the market supports their viability. Collectively, we are all charged with directing our resources to improving the health of the population we serve.
Growth also created the need for facility expansion. In 2015, medical planners and architects were engaged to help plan and design a new medical office building on the Prairie Lakes Campus. The $32 million project includes a two-story, 68,000 square foot office building; a new and reconfigured ambulance garage (now open); addition of a canopy and improved entry for outpatients and the emergency department; relocation of the helipad to the roof of the new clinic building; and, addition of a therapy pool – the first of its kind for Watertown.
This project is a significant milestone for our organization and the region. In the 32-year history of Prairie Lakes Healthcare System, we have benefited from the generous support of our community and dedication of our employees. Happy hospital week to all! We look forward to inviting you to the Prairie Lakes Specialty Clinic grand opening this fall.
President and CEO