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North Shore Health Media Release States its Case About Recent Public Scrutiny

On Thursday, January 12, 2024, North Shore Health (NSH), which operates the hos­pital in Grand Marais, issued a lengthy media release titled “Findings of Facts and Con­clusions” about three issues that have seen public comment in social media and newspa­pers. Board members met in a closed-door session under the “attorney-client privilege to discuss legal strategy related to potential litigation; to consider certain Review Organization Matters; and to consider con­tracts related to the Hospital’s competitive position.”

The release states that NSH CEO Kimber Wraalstad was absent at the closed-door meet­ing.

The three issues the release addressed were:

  1. Termination of ER phy­sician Dr. Dahlman by the firm Wapiti, which has secured ER doctors at NSH for many years.
  2. Ambulance service
  3. Hospital Lab

Regarding Dr. Dahlman, the release reports that his contract with Wapiti was terminated after he was asked repeatedly by Wapiti to cease undermining their administrative decisions. He didn’t stop his behavior, which Wapiti determined was disruptive to its operations.

Next, the release states that Wapiti reviews “Clarity re­ports from NSH’s Quality Im­provement Department and identified certain clinical be­haviors.” The release does not spell out the clinical behaviors that NSH reported, but seem­ingly implies those may have contributed to his termination.

The section on Dr. Dahlman concluded with a suggestion that the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic could hire him to “en­sure that Dr. Dahlman’s med­ical services would remain available to the community.”

Regarding the ambulance services, the release acknowl­edges that “there may have been some morale issues in the past.” They say that un­der the new leadership, “the ambulance services are fully staffed and enthusiastic.” The statement adds, “While some former employees are unhappy with their tenure, current em­ployees voice no similar con­cerns.”

Addressing staff turnover and morale issues in the on­site laboratory, the release said the board requested a meeting with the interim Lab Director. They also spoke with a psy­chologist from the Sand Creek EAP. This Minneapolis firm is part of AllOne Health, which provides Employee Assistance Programs to various organi­zations. NSH retained Sand Creek to improve interperson­al issues and communication among lab personnel in 2022 and 2023.

The psychologist recom­mended that NSH hire a “Lab Mentor” to support the lab, which it did. With leadership changes, the Lab Mentor was promoted to Interim Laborato­ry Administrative Director.

Acknowledging that many lab employees resigned during these two years, NSH says, “The Lab is currently appro­priately staffed, and morale is reported to be good.”

The Board has unanimously agreed that, in these three mat­ters, all public allegations con­trary to its stated positions are “unfounded and in some cases, misrepresent the facts or are simply untrue.”

The release addresses the lo­cal physicians who were vocal about the hospital and its handling of Dr. Dahlman’s termi­nation. It states that the board believes personal attacks by these physicians and others, which they don’t identify here, have been “grossly unfair.”

The Board then alleges, “Candidly, they appear to be using Dr. Dahlman’s situation to pursue some unknown per­sonal agenda at the expense of NSH.”

Without support for those allegations, the release goes on, “The outspoken physicians associated with the Clinic (Sawtooth Mountain Clinic) are people of influence within their organization and in the community. Yet they have not offered to employ Dr. Dahl­man.”

The release goes on to seem­ingly imply that there may be some deeper secrets at play. “The silence from the Clin­ic physicians on this obvious solution (retaining Dr. Dahl­man) speaks volumes.”

The report concludes with the board spelling out its le­gal responsibilities and stating it considers all three matters closed.

The full report is published on the NSH website: https://www.northshorehealthgm.org.

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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