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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital poised for growth

New foundation board members voted in at annual meeting

Keith Vandervort
Posted 12/3/19

ELY –The future for the Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital was presented Monday night as shareholders gathered for the annual meeting of the Ely Health and Hospital Foundation.Chief Executive …

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Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital poised for growth

New foundation board members voted in at annual meeting


ELY –The future for the Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital was presented Monday night as shareholders gathered for the annual meeting of the Ely Health and Hospital Foundation.
Chief Executive Officer Michael Coyle offered a year in review and a look down the road for one of the largest employers in Ely with close to 100 employees and a payroll in excess of $8 million. His presentation came following a brief financial overview by the foundation’s auditor, Timothy Balthazor of RSM US, who described the EBCH foundation as having a “healthy balance sheet,”
In an effort to clear up a common misperception in the Ely community, Coyle stressed, “We are an independent and non-affiliated hospital. We are not owned, managed or leased by anybody. All of our profits stay with our facility. I hear all the time that we are an Essentia hospital. We are not. We are EBCH.”
The Ely Community Pharmacy, while located adjacent to the Essentia Medical Clinic, is also owned by the hospital. Since the closing last year of the Shopko pharmacy, the EBCH pharmacy saw its volume triple practically overnight, said Coyle, from filling 40,000 prescriptions a year to nearly 120,000. “And that happened in about four weeks. Everyone thinks that growth is good, but controlled growth is better.”
To meet that demand, the pharmacy made changes that included adding a second register line, and adding another pharmacist, along with technicians and clerks. “It took them a while to get up to speed,” Coyle said. He previously announced that a proposed campus-wide expansion project would likely include pharmacy relocation and expansion with the addition of a drive-thru access.
Other health-delivery improvements at EBCH last year included the addition of a new CT scanner, “We went from 16 slices (of imaging) to 128 slices,” Coyle said. “There is not much that new machine can’t do and our scans are on the rise because you don’t have to go some other place to get that done. You can have that done right here in Ely.”
CT scans at EBCH increased from 1,144 in 2018 to 1,331 in the first nine months of this year.
Renovations last year also allowed for the construction of two complete radiology suites. “We also have fluoroscopy, or live x-ray,” Coyle said. “That guarantees correct placement of an injection. Our orthopedic specialist, Dr. Sam Harms, uses that all the time.” MRIs increased from 302 last year to 377 in the first nine months of 2019.
A new website ( was also just launched. “It looks nothing like the old one, and has lots more information, and will soon include the ability to pay your bill online,” he said. A new EBCH logo and improved branding continues to take place. Information technology infrastructure was completely updated. A new cardiac rehabilitation monitoring program and equipment is in place.
“We have a new Health Needs Assessment program, an updated master building plan, new strategic plan, and we just recently launched a three-year commitment to improving patient and employee satisfaction,” he said. “We had a busy 2019.”
While inpatient days at the hospital decreased from 786 in 2018 to 692 through Sept 30 in 2019, outpatie.nt numbers increased from 10,270 in 2018 to 10,443 this year. “Admissions are down, but what you see across the country right now is insurance (companies) not paying for extended stays in the hospital like they did before,” he said.
Coyle also noted that a new urologist, Dr. Nicholas Johnson, is now at EBCH.
Looking forward to 2020, Coyle said he is anticipating an increase in specialty providers at EBCH. “We will be announcing the addition of podiatry (services) here on campus, as well as more cardiology and pain management,” he said.
Community engagement and more EBCH Foundation community involvement are also on the 2020 to-do list. “We want to get out in the community. We don’t want to hide from anything. We want to get out in front of you all and have these conversations,” Coyle said. “We are asking you to support our facility and we can’t do that if we don’t hear from you. We also have to do a better job of making you aware of what we can and cannot do, and why.”
Supporting growth in the number of outpatient services, enhanced service excellence, education and training, a focus on clinical and service quality, and a growth in market share are all planned for next year, according to Coyle.
The proposed expansion of the EBCH campus is dubbed “Get Healthy, Ely.” Coyle revealed an architectural rendering of a possible new front entrance to EBCH fronting a yet-to-be built Fifth Avenue on the west side of the campus. The open concept lobby could have a vaulted ceiling and plenty of windows. “We want a new identity for our hospital. Now you enter the hospital through what looks like a side door. We want a receptionist to greet you, and an escort for to get you where you have to go. And our parking now is not great at all. We want to respond to the community and give them space in our new building.”
He noted that the expansion concept is just out of the brain-storming phase. “This is what this could look like. We are still a long ways from doing this, but we need to be thinking about it,” Coyle said.
Four partners in the “Get Healthy, Ely” initiative include EBCH, the Ely Regional Community Complex, YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities and the Ely School District.
“Recently, we started having some discussions with the school district,” Coyle said. “We know that there are some renovations that need to happen at the school and there may be a way to help them reduce that overall cost if we can do some things together.”
He clarified, “We are still going through this process. These are the partners we are communicating with. We have heard loud and clear from legislators that if you want more money for Ely, you have to bring in more partners to make it a regional effort.”
Voting also took place to fill three vacant seats on the Board of Directors. With four contenders seeking three seats on the board, the Ely Health and Hospital Foundation faced its first contested board member election in recent history.
The ballot included the hospital’s recently retired chief financial officer Scott Kellerman, Ely Ambulance Service director Geoff Galaski, Devon Luthens and Tim Riley. Shareholder Mike Forsman nominated his brother, Ely City Council member Al Forsman, from the floor, providing a slate of five candidates.
As a result of the balloting, Kellerman, Luthens and Riley were all added to the foundation board.


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