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Dr. Jeff Skogen, a kidney specialist with Essentia Health, announces plans to open a dialysis center in Park Rapids next spring. Construction is scheduled to begin in November with the center opening May 15, 2013. Photo by Anna Erickson / Park Rapids Enterprise

New dialysis center will open in Park Rapids

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Park Rapids dialysis patients can look forward to a better quality of life with less travel once a new center opens in the community next year.

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"The motivation is the patients," said Dr. Jeff Skogen, a kidney specialist with Essentia Health. " ... To see everything falling in line and seeing this becoming a reality is a good feeling."

A lot of people from Park Rapids are getting dialysis in Detroit Lakes or Fargo and Skogen has been working for many years on bringing the dialysis center to Park Rapids.

DaVita, Boser Construction, Inc., and Artekta Architects are collaborating on the development of the center, which is scheduled to break ground in November. The opening date is scheduled for May 15, 2013.

The center will add between five and seven jobs to start and has room for expansion based on the number of patients, Skogen said.

Dialysis is the clinical purification of blood to substitute the normal function of the kidney. Over the years, dialysis continues to be refined and has allowed patients with kidney disease to continue functioning, Skogen said.

He explained that many people have dialysis three times a week and it is a lengthy process. Once a person arrives at the clinic it can be five hours until he or she is done. This doesn't include driving time, which adds another two to three hours for Park Rapids residents who need dialysis.

In addition, Detroit Lakes, for example, becomes overloaded with patients during tourism season and some people are required to start dialysis very early at 6 a.m. or take the late appointment, which doesn't end until 10 or 10:30 p.m.

"When I talk to people about dialysis, the first thing out of my mouth is 'let's talk about quality of life' ... this is about quality of life."

Dialysis can give them more quantity of life as well, Skogen added.

"I always tell people if you don't need dialysis it's nice not to have it but when you need it it's like a gift from God," he said.

The new center will allow for more set schedules for those who are on dialysis and there will be room for expansion, Skogen said. It will have both in-center dialysis and home modalities dialysis.

After hearing many times that the numbers wouldn't support a dialysis clinic in Park Rapids the answer changed to "yes."

St. Joseph's Area Health Services president/CEO Ben Koppelman had been hearing about the need for a dialysis center in Park Rapids for many years as well.

"This is a great day for the community of Park Rapids and the surrounding area," Koppelman said. "I think we can all agree that it's nice to see some economic growth and development along with some new jobs for the community. However, the biggest winners in this announcement today and the number one reason we're here today is for the patients, current and future dialysis patients."

Accessible health care services are important to all of us, he said.

"The demand for dialysis services is only going to continue to grow," he said. "Given the fact that this is a highly specialized service that requires a lot of expertise and a significant capital investment, we began discussions with DaVita quite some time ago and with the help of Dr. Skogen."

Koppelman noted that David Collins, with the Hubbard County Regional Economic Development Commission and the city of Park Rapids have been partners in bringing this center to the community as well.

Doug Boser, with Boser Construction, Inc., said the dialysis center will be 12,000-18,000 square feet.

The proposed center will be located on the south side of Seventh Street West between Main Avenue and Highway 71 in Park Rapids. The city is working with the dialysis center partners to rezone the property.

The dialysis center will be on the first floor of the three-story building, allowing for other tenants to fill the rest of the space.

Boser said the building will be energy efficient and he looks forward to working with local subcontractors.

Mayor Nancy Carroll said this is "truly a joyous occasion for the entire community."

"We know Park Rapids is a great place to live, work and play and this will add to that," she said.

Hubbard County Board chairman Dick Devine said the county is glad to see this type of facility here.

"I moved to Park Rapids in 1969 and it's hard to believe it's become what it has today," he said. "If we're going to continue to grow and do better, we have to have change and we have to take care of the community and the people who visit our community."

John Rasmussen has volunteered to drive dialysis patients to Detroit Lakes and Fargo over the years and he said this is like a homerun with the bases loaded and a win-win.

"The people that are putting this together should do well because of the medical changes that are going on," he said. "And I applaud them, commend them and thank them for their efforts."

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