Essentia CEO says the new building is ‘sustainable’ and will provide ‘great care’

Over the span of four years, and a $900 million investment by Essentia, the vision has been reached and the Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center opened for patients. Officials at Essentia told WDIO News that it took about seven hours to move 230 patients on Sunday.

WDIO News has been following the Vision Northland project from start to finish.

Essentia Health’s CEO, Dr. David Herman sat down with WDIO’s Renee Passal to discuss what this project means to Duluth and to the region.

Here is our full interview with Dr. David Herman.

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The new hospital is supposed to be usable for more than 50 years and was designed to be flexible, adapting to change as modern medicine continues to advance.

With the steep cost of the Vision Northland project, you may wonder if some of that cost will be added on to your bill. Dr. Herman says the two are not connected.

“You know, the size of the building you build and the expense that goes into the building is not factored at all into the cost of care. So when we negotiate with the insurance companies, we can’t go, well, we have a new building,” Dr. Herman said. “That’s what the rates are. And the rates are also set by the state and by the federal government.

Dr. Herman says the facility will be more efficient. “The lighting will cost us about 20% less. Water will use about 25% less.” He says the goal is to make this sustainable with great care of the patients.

Essentia worked with contractor McGough on what was called the Vision Northland Project.

“We had about 2.9 million working hours to build this building, one of the safest projects in the state of Minnesota and in the United States,” Dr. Herman said. There were only two injuries during that period.

“The other thing that we’re really excited about is when we built this building, we set a goal of 8% of our hours would be underrepresented minorities in construction. We ended up with almost 22% of those hours for underrepresented minorities in construction.” He says this means more people were able to start or advance their careers when working on this project.

The overall project ended on time and on budget. Not only is it the tallest building in Duluth, it is now the largest private investment in the City’s history.

Interesting fact: The new building is actually smaller in square foot size, than the old hospital. The legacy St. Mary’s building is set for demolition sometime next year.