Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson has been asked to intervene in a dispute involving Allina Health and an elected north suburban hospital board after the board voted Wednesday night to dissolve and stop collecting taxes to support Unity Hospital in Fridley.
The North Suburban Hospital District was formed in the 1960s to build and support Unity as a general hospital for the surrounding communities, but board members say the organization’s purpose is dwindling in an era of hospital consolidations and mergers. Allina Health, a large hospital system that now operates Unity, has made a number of changes to make the hospital a regional specialty center, including closing its obstetrics, pediatrics and cardiac catheterization units and expanding its mental health care.
“The Hospital District board determined that it could no longer provide health care facilities focused on the citizens in its participating cities,” the board said in a statement. “[The board] was formed when health care was a local issue and hospitals were stand-alone entities providing a broad range of services.”
The collection of nearly $2 million in taxes from Blaine, Fridley, Hilltop, Mounds View and Spring Lake Park will halt as of next year. Allina plans to acquire the hospital land that the board now owns.
Three candidates for the board, running a coordinated “Save Our Hospital” campaign ahead of the November election, opposed the decision because they believe the board needs to serve its communities by resisting some of Allina’s changes at Unity.
“Allina needs to be held accountable for the millions of dollars they have extracted from our community,” said Linda Hamilton, a candidate for the board and former president of the Minnesota Nurses Association. The union is currently orchestrating a nursing strike against Unity and four other Allina hospitals.
In a statement, Hamilton and two other candidates said they want the attorney general to investigate the board’s decision to dissolve.