The history of Tri-County Health Care is carefully archived in the pages of the Wadena Pioneer Journal. Within the tightly set pages of old newspapers, stories of doctors, nurses, and business innovators paint the picture of a small hospital that would become a thriving epicenter for healthier living. Looking back and reflecting on the old makes us appreciate the present while looking forward to the future.

The Wesley Hospital has seen change over the years but still stands strong across from the current facility as it has since 1925.
Photo courtesy Tri-County Health Care
The Wesley Hospital has seen change over the years but still stands strong across from the current facility as it has since 1925. Photo courtesy Tri-County Health Care

Wesley Hospital of Wadena

In the early 1900s, citizens of Wadena were in desperate need of medical care. Sickness and death were all too common, with the flu ravaging the community in 1918. During this time, healthcare was administered out of private residences and converted homes. The need for better medical services sparked talks of a new hospital. A committee of prominent citizens and Wadena’s Methodist Church stepped in to facilitate the project.

The new hospital would serve all people regardless of race, creed, or background. It would be a hospital for everyone, and thus it needed to be funded by the people it would serve. The committee set out to raise money for the facility via donations. They set a goal of $50,000 and in July 1922, they had raised $35,767.

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By 1923, construction was well underway. Crews worked feverishly to put up the frame of the building. It became apparent that construction was costing more than anticipated, and soon, organizers were leading fundraising campaigns to furnish specific rooms of the hospital. Ultimately, the project required a $30,000 loan to finish construction. On Jan. 30 1925, Wesley Hospital of Wadena opened its doors, marking the beginning of many new additions and building projects to come.

Tri-County Hospital

Wesley Hospital marched on with thousands of patients admitted over the years. It would endure the depression, near bankruptcy, revitalization, and expansion. However, medical science moves quickly. Soon, the facility became worn and dated. Expansion opportunities were limited and leaders were aware the building couldn’t keep up with the everchanging landscape of technology and medicine. The board and the people of Wadena needed a new hospital.

The board began the planning phases for a new 43,000 square foot hospital. The project ended up costing an estimated $2.1 million and accommodated 56 beds. Capital campaigns targeted community members and on Aug. 2, 1972, the team broke ground across the street from the Wesley Building. A nurse’s quarters previously occupied the land. Amid construction, the group decided to build a clinic adjacent to the new hospital.

On Jan. 6, 1974, crowds of Wadena citizens attended an open house at the new building. They braved the biting cold to see the new hospital that was constructed without any tax funding.

The new hospital came with a variety of amenities like a pharmacy, cafeteria, and medicine cabinets in each hospital room. Each room even came with a television and air conditioner. A private room cost $49 and $46 for a double room. On Sept. 1, 1974, shortly after the transition to the new building, the board of directors changed the name to Tri-County Hospital.

A rural health care center of the future

The current facility has seen numerous remodels and revisions. Tri-County Health Care continues to look at ways to improve, which has included several new additions. Space has been dwindling and opportunities to continue building have been stifled. In 2019, initial planning began on a new cutting-edge facility.

Looking for available land was a challenge. After much deliberation, senior leadership decided on a patch of land just outside of Wadena. The land was occupied by an old farmhouse just off Hwy 10. The spot would allow for a new hospital and future business growth.

The $72 million facility will come equipped with a bevy of new features. The new building will be home to larger, more technologically advanced exam rooms making for a more efficient clinic space. Plus, it will feature enhanced patient privacy for a better overall experience. The new building will also have a stronger emphasis on outpatient care. Everything about the new hospital and clinic will reinforce better living practices.

COVID-19 became a significant obstacle to the progression of the project. The project was paused while Tri-County Health Care focused on managing the pandemic. Fortunately, in July 2020, planning resumed with newfound vigor. A critical evaluation of the building plan took place. Leadership made adjustments based on information gathered during the COVID-19 pandemic. Subsequent months were devoted to final details on brick types and building materials. The excitement continued to grow until finally, in the spring of 2021, the final steps of the organization process were in sight. On May 21, a small groundbreaking ceremony was held at the site of the highly anticipated rural health care center of the future. President and CEO, Joel Beiswenger and a small group of special guests broke ground as an audience of Wadena citizens and Tri-County Health Care staff watched via livestream.

The future

This new building was born from the need to provide top-tier care, much like how Tri-County Health Care’s journey started a century ago with the construction of the Wesley Building. The building process will be carefully chronicled and shared on Tri-County Health Care’s website and various social media channels. Please visit TCHC.org/build2023 for regular updates.