Lake Henry set to join hospital district

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 9/20/00.

It's taken almost a decade, but the city of Lake Henry is finally poised to join the Paynesville Area Hospital District ...again.

When the district was formed in 1992, the cities of Eden Valley, Richmond, and Lake Henry wanted to join but were denied entry because they did not border the district.

Since that time, both Eden Valley and Richmond joined the hospital district through the use of special legislation. Now the city of Lake Henry, population 90, is taking the final steps for joining the district, too.

Mayor Dan Liebl, who is finishing ten years of service as mayor of Lake Henry, said the city has wanted to join from the beginning. But, in 1992, hospital districts had to be contiguous. In other words, the member cities and townships had to border another entity within the district.

The city of Lake Henry wanted to join at this time, but were denied entry when Lake Henry Township residents voted not to join. With Lake Henry Township out, the city of Lake Henry did not border the district.

With the entry of Eden Valley and Richmond by use of special legislation, the city of Lake Henry approached hospital system administrator Willie LaCroix before the last legislative session about using the same process to allow Lake Henry to enter. Instead of just making a one-time exception to the contiguous requirement, the district was successful in getting a permanent change to the legislation.

For existing hospital districts, the requirements were loosened to allow for one entity that had not joined. This, in essence, allows a hospital district to skip one township or city.

In the city of Lake Henry's case, they are surrounded by Lake Henry Township, which still does not want to join the district. The new legislation allows the district to skip over the township and permit the city of Lake Henry to join.

The Lake Henry City Council voted unanimously to join the district in July. The law requires a waiting period of 40 days after the publication of the intent to join the district before entry is allowed.

During that time, residents of the city of Lake Henry could petition for a referendum about the city's entry into the district.

If no petition is received by the middle of October, the hospital board will be able to accept the city of Lake Henry into the district and a representative for Lake Henry onto the board.

The Paynesville Area Ambulance Corps helped the Lake Henry Fire Department start a first responders unit. That cooperation, as well as the ambulance service and quality medical care, are reasons the city should join the district, according to Lake Henry council member John Horn, who coordinated the city's communications with the hospital district.

Horn said the city of Lake Henry already benefits in a number of ways from the hospital district. Thus, joining is a natural step.

Horn thinks communities working together in the district can keep quality, local health care available to the area. Having those services nearby is especially important in emergency situations, he noted.

"We'll do whatever we can to help the hospital out. They've done a lot to help us out," added Liebl. "Plus, it's local. That means a lot."

Perks for joining the district include training opportunities, supplies, ambulance service (with a rebate to district residents), and a voice in health care decisions.

The city of Lake Henry would become the 11th entity in the hospital district. Current members are the cities of Eden Valley, Paynesville, Regal, Roscoe, Richmond, and St. Martin; and the townships of Paynesville, Roseville, Union Grove, and Zion.

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