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Members of the West Central Singers -- based in Willmar -- are packing their bags today for a trip to New York City, where they'll be singing with a mass choir in a concert Monday at Carnegie Hall. Are they excited about it? "I think excitement is an understatement," laughed Jackie Cunningham, a soprano and longtime member of the regional chorus.
From power-generating wind turbines to the manufacture of animal vaccines, west central Minnesota is turning into a hotbed of innovation in renewable energy and the biosciences.
WILLMAR -- Got an old unpaid bill at Rice Memorial Hospital? The hospital recently began offering "amnesty" in the form of a 25 percent discount to patients who pay off the entire balance for care they received Jan. 31 or earlier. It's the first time Rice has done so, and hospital officials hope patients take advantage of the amnesty to settle older bills. "We're hoping the program works," said Jackie Hinderks, director of revenue and reimbursement.
WILLMAR -- A proposal to renovate the skilled nursing wings at the Rice Care Center calls for a "household" concept that creates groups of resident rooms with shared living and dining areas. There would be more private rooms.
Tyler Mealhouse opened wide as Dr. Michael Gardner and dental assistant Kim Moline applied sealant to his teeth. Gardner kept up a steady stream of reassuring conversation as he worked. "This isn't so bad, is it?" he asked the 11-year-old.
WILLMAR -- The numbers aren't official yet, but Rice Memorial Hospital turned in its best financial performance last year in at least five years. According to unaudited figures shared Friday with the hospital board's finance committee, Rice earned a margin of nearly 6 percent on total operating revenue in 2011 of $102.6 million. This translates into $6 million in profit that can be plow-ed back into services and new initiatives the hospital is planning in upcoming months. It also will help buffer Rice as the hospital prepares for the fiscal impact of state and federal health care reform. "
I have seen a vision of the future of health care and it looks like... well, I don't know exactly what, because it hasn't happened yet. But it's intriguing for sure. Local health providers were offered an opportunity last week to redesign the health care delivery system in ways that help lower costs, enhance quality and result in better outcomes for patients. Concepts such as "accountable care community," "episodes of care" and "patient-centered medical home" were a big part of the discussion.
WILLMAR -- Six local couples are donning ballroom finery and showing off their dance moves at an upcoming benefit for the Willmar Community Senior Network. Organizers have taken a cue from the "Dancing With the Stars" television show to raise money and awareness on behalf of the Senior Network, a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization devoted to helping older adults remain in their homes. "Dancing With Our Stars," which also will include a silent auction, will be held March 24 at the Holiday Inn and Willmar Conference Center.
WILLMAR -- Local health organizations were handed an opportunity this week to redesign how they care for patients. What's envisioned is a complete realignment of how doctors and hospitals are paid, with rewards for making patients better and information technology to guide decision-making and ensure fewer patients fall through the cracks. It would be hard work but it's possible, Garrett Black of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota told a roomful of local hospital and clinic leaders Thursday night. "I think there's a way to get there but we need to hear from you," said Black, vice presid