The supposed public yet ultra-secretive board of community-owned Unity Hospital in Fridley wants to dissolve itself and sell the hospital to Allina Health for just $1.
It’s a decision that seemed to be made entirely behind closed doors, without input from the residents of Fridley, Blaine, Mounds View, Spring Lake Park, and Hilltop, whose taxes kept Unity open since the 1960s.
In fact, few north metro residents even knew that Unity was overseen by a group called the North Suburban Hospital District Board. The identities of the board members, and what power they had to preserve services at Unity, were total mysteries.
It wasn’t until three nurses – including Linda Hamilton, former president of the Minnesota Nurses Association – filed to run for seats under the Save our Hospital campaign that anyone discovered the hospital was for sale.
It turned out that Allina Health, which currently operates Unity, envisions transforming the full-service hospital into a mental health center. It has already closed Unity’s birth, pediatric, and cardiac units in the process. The North Suburban Hospital District Board did not push back against those changes.
Less than two months before the election, before a crowd of last-minute protesters, the board unanimously voted to dissolve. Chair Gerald Maeckelberg said there was no more need for community ownership of Unity, now that grounds and facilities are nice enough.
A group of five patients and employees of the hospital immediately sued to cancel the vote. In its haste to avoid a coup, the board had blown over its legal obligation to petition residents for permission to seek dissolution, the residents argued.
On Monday the board's attorneys actually agreed with them. They admitted that they cannot legally dissolve without a petition, and insisted that the board's earlier vote was only to express the "intent" to begin the dissolution process.
In any case, the North Suburban Hospital District Board will not be allowed to break up just yet, and the election will go on.
If elected to the board, Save Our Hospital candidates Hamilton, Corbin Mattila, and Bridget Lundquist intend to abandon dissolution plans and maintain Unity as a community hospital offering as many basic services as possible.