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West End News: January 29

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Boot Hockey is back at Birch Grove again this year.  The popular tournament is still open for team sign-ups. There is a limit of eight teams with five to seven people on each team.  The date is Friday, February 20th, with registration starting at 4 pm and boot hockey action starting at 4:30.  Call Birch Grove at 663-7977 or email for more information or to sign up your team.
In the past few years, the Forest Service team seems to have dominated the tourney, so it would be nice to bring in some stiffer competition for them so they don’t get cocky.  Business sponsorships are encouraged, by the way, so don’t be shy about recruiting a team. 
As if the boot hockey tournament isn’t too much fun in itself, Birch Grove is also having a movie night that same night with two features, the first starting at 5 pm and the second at 7 pm.  Movie fans can arrive early to catch some exciting broomball battles and broomball players can unwind with a movie after the game.
I ran into Barb Merritt at the Tofte General Store the other day as she was checking out the groceries for the Senior Lunch at Birch Grove.  It made me hungry just seeing the ingredients for a delicious beef stew.  Barb enjoys the highest reputation as the Senior Lunch chef.  I told her that I would be there every week if I didn’t live so far away.  It is definitely on my list of things to do when I retire.
Remember that the Senior Lunch is nearly every Wednesday at Birch Grove in Tofte.  If you aren’t a regular participant, give Birch Grove a call to let them know you’re coming so Barb can plan you in.  The few time that I’ve been able to go I’ve learned a ton of history and did a lot of laughing.
The Birch Grove Foundation is also planning a Spring Blossom bus tour to Door County, Wisconsin, May 3rd through May 8th.  The tour is designed for people 55 and older, but everyone is welcome to participate.  That number again at Birch Grove is 663-7977 or email
I’ve been following, with interest, the news about a pending decision to stop planned births at the North Shore Hospital in Grand Marais.  I have a fair amount of experience in the birthing room at the hospital as all four of my children were born there.  It was sure a wonderful thing to experience such an intense and emotional time in a familiar setting with talented nurses and doctors who were friends and neighbors.
As I understand it, the intersection of insurance and medical standards is causing the reluctant decision to stop planned births at the hospital.  That is too bad, but it’s important to remember that the hospital plays a relatively brief role in the whole experience of childbirth.  Our wonderful Sawtooth Mountain Clinic will be providing the same pre and post-natal services that they have been all along.  Childbirth education will still be happening locally.  Even though the birth-day is a big event, everything that comes before and after is vitally important, too.  It looks like the clinic will be working with prospective parents to make their birth experience as personal and unique as they like.
Also, the hospital will still be providing birthing services for babies that won’t wait for a ride to Duluth.  Two of my children would have been born in Little Marais if we had tried to drive to Duluth after labor started.
The whole situation is just one symptom of the ongoing semi-chaos that is the American health care system.  My experience has been that the people who provide our health care are universally caring, smart and very, very good at what they do.  However, the way that the health care system is organized - especially around the money part - is a confusing, and nearly incomprehensible mess. 
It isn’t realistic to think that we can suddenly scrap the entire system and start over.  But, we can hope for finding the political will to start fixing the most obvious problems and get to a health care system that works for everyone.
Come to think of it, if the entire system ran a little more like it does here in Cook County, the whole country would be better off.