A joint venture between Allina Health System and a division of Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group is building a surgery center in Brooklyn Park and has plans to start developing two other facilities this year.

The Minneapolis-based health system and Optum launched the joint venture in late 2019 with plans to open or acquire roughly one dozen surgery centers in five years.

Those plans are on track, Allina officials said, with the joint venture having obtained in recent months majority ownership in three surgery centers in the Twin Cities. The joint venture also operates Allina surgery centers in Edina and Plymouth, so the new Brooklyn Park location would be the sixth operated through the partnership.

"When you look at our approximately 60 primary-care clinics, and then we probably have another 60 or so specialty clinics across the metro, we do have ... clinics around this Brooklyn Park ambulatory surgery center," said Dave Slowinske, the senior vice president for operations at Allina Health. "That really is part of the strategy, to bring care closer to home and closer to the communities that we serve."

Allina operates 10 hospitals in Minnesota and Wisconsin including Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis and United Hospital in St. Paul. The nonprofit health system last year posted $4.37 billion in revenue.

Optum provides a variety of health care services including pharmaceutical benefits management, data consulting and direct patient care. For many years, the collection of businesses within Optum has been a faster-growing component of UnitedHealth Group than its legacy business, UnitedHealthcare, which is the nation's largest health insurer.

Called Surgical Care Associates, the surgery-center business at Optum runs a network of more than 210 facilities, Allina said, that perform more than 1 million procedures per year.

Allina did not say how much it will spend to build the surgery center.

The health system will be the majority owner of the Brooklyn Park site in partnership with Surgical Care Associates, which is one of the nation's largest surgery-center operators.

Allina plans to open the 18,000-square-foot surgery center in Brooklyn Park in early 2022. The location makes sense because it's near the health system's Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids, including its Unity campus in Fridley, as well as physicians who might want to bring cases to the surgery center, said Dr. Robert Quickel, Allina's vice president of surgical services.

The joint venture recently acquired majority ownership of surgery centers in Maple Grove, Minneapolis and Woodbury.

"The economics of each center are a little different," Slowinske said.

Insurers are pushing health systems to move procedures from hospitals to surgery centers, where costs can be lower. A variety of operations currently performed in hospital outpatient departments can be shifted to surgery centers, Quickel said.

"Some of those cases are cases that we're currently doing in our hospitals, that we feel we can essentially provide better value to the community by doing them in a more efficient, cost-effective place," he said. "Some are also cases out there being done by surgeons in potentially other systems or in their own ambulatory surgery centers. Part of the strategy is to help keep us strongly affiliated with the broader surgical community and provide a place for them to do surgical cases that is highly efficient."

Christopher Snowbeck • 612-673-4744

Twitter: @chrissnowbeck