North Shore Health hires new ambulance director and welcomes back Portage band to the Care Center
WTIP file photo

North Shore Health hires new ambulance director and welcomes back Portage band to the Care Center

Numerous developments and changes are occurring at North Shore Health. Including a new ambulance director, new interim chief financial officer, advanced ultrasound equipment, and the welcomed return of the Portage band to the Care Center.

The changes in staff and operations at North Shore Health and the 2023 proposed capital and operational budget were discussed during the Dec. 22 North Shore Health board meeting.

The first significant change to occur at North Shore Health is hiring a new ambulance director.

Hospital Administrator Kimber Wraalstad said that the former Ambulance Director, Tom Fleming, decided to resign and has left the area. She said he resigned at the end of November.

Following Fleming’s resignation, Wraalstad said the hospital posted the position on the website and started actively searching for a new ambulance director. North Shore Health had an existing relationship with Karla Pankow from Pine City and offered her the position.

“She has been working with us on a casual basis since April of 2022,” Wraalstad said. “She’s just jumping right in and doing great things.”

Pankow is a nationally registered paramedic and critical care paramedic. Wraalstad said she is interested in furthering education programs at North Shore Health and working with John Moe, the education director.

During the meeting, board member Patty Winchell-Dahl shared positive feedback from the community regarding the return of the Portage band to the Care Center.

The Portage band has been performing at the Care Center for over twenty years, along with numerous other locations throughout the county. However, the band stopped playing at the Care Center during the pandemic.

“Now we have been able to welcome the Portage band back again,” Wraalstad said.

She added, “We have many, many excited residents. They get to come out and hear the band. They get to dance, some of those in their wheelchairs. We have some wonderful volunteers that come up and actually will push the wheelchairs or dance with the residents.”

During the meeting, Dahl said, “It’s a fun time. It’s really good that they come out and do this.”

In addition to a new ambulance director and the return of a community tradition at the Care Center, the hospital also welcomes two new faces to the team.

At the Nov. board meeting, Paul Geottl, chief financial officer (CFO), announced he would leave North Shore Health to return to the hospitality industry. Following the news, the hospital contacted various accounting firms seeking an interim CFO.

North Shore Health found its new interim CFO, Doug Montgomery, at an accounting firm in Minneapolis called Eide Bailly. The company has numerous national locations and has an existing relationship with the hospital.

Wraalstad said Montgomery had been involved in healthcare finance for his entire career. He has extensive experience working with Meditech, an accounting software system the hospital uses. He will work remotely from the Twin Cities region.

Recently, Geottl and Montgomery have had an opportunity to work together. Geottl will remain on call to ensure a smooth transition.

In addition, there will be an official new North Shore Health board member during the Jan. meeting, Steve Frykman. The Dec. 22 meeting was District 3 board member Steve Nielsen’s last meeting.

“We would like to recognize Steve Nielsen for his service as a board member for District 3,” Wraalstad said. “I think it’s important to recognize him for his service and dedication to national health.”

As the hospital welcomes new staff and faces to the team, a new piece of ultrasound technology is making waves at the hospital.

Thanks to the Helmsley Charitable Trust, Wraalstad said the hospital received a Point of Care Ultrasound equipment that allows the staff to conduct quick screening exams at the bedside.

All the board members were excited about the new technology and opportunity for North Shore Health.

“This is amazing,” Mary Sanders said.

Dr. Kurt Farchmin added, “It has a lot of utility. It’s very versatile.”

The new equipment was presented by Troy Batchelor, hospital director of nursing. He added, “It has a lot of nice features that it can do.”

“I think it just adds a little extra for the patients coming in,” Wraalstad said. “And that allows for more quick screening and understanding of what might be happening.”

In other hospital news, Dr. Farchmin said during the meeting that the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic has been very busy and respiratory visits have increased. In addition, the Care Center is currently at 75% occupancy.

WTIP’s Kalli Hawkins spoke with Kimber Wraalstad, hospital administrator, following the Dec. 22 board meeting about the changes and the 2023 proposed capital and operational budget. Audio from the interview is below.