Hearing held for Tri-County Hospital relocation

Tri-County Health Care CEO Joel Beiswenger shared the reasons behind the move and gave insight into what people can expect from the new facility.

Tri-County Health Care's new hospital under construction in Wadena. The grand opening is planned for March 18. With the grand opening, Tri-County Health Care will become Astera Health.
Contributed / Tri-County Health Care

WADENA — The Minnesota Department of Health hosted an online public hearing about Tri-County Hospital’s relocation on Wednesday, Jan. 11.

The hospital campus is moving from its current location at 415 Jefferson St. N. in Wadena to 421 11th St. NW. in Wadena. The new facility is located on city-annexed land just over the Wadena County border in Otter Tail County.

With the new hospital’s grand opening planned for March 18, the public hearing served as a forum for Tri-County Health Care CEO Joel Beiswenger to share information about the move and take questions and comments from the public.

Maria King with the Health Regulation Division of the Minnesota Department of Health noted the meeting was strictly informational, and that the department could not delay, change or prevent the relocation.

Beiswenger shared a number of the reasons for the move, two of the most important factors being the age of the current hospital building and its location.


Joel CEO.jpg
Tri-County Health Care CEO Joel Beiswenger speaks during the hospital relocation hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023.
Screen capture / Microsoft Teams

Beiswenger said that Tri-County Health Care has been constantly upgrading and improving the current hospital, a cycle they realized may never end, given the age of the building.

“After 2015, when we completed a couple of large remodelings, we actually did pause, step back, and take a look and say, for all the work we’ve done over the last 15 years, we still have an antiquated and unacceptable facility for our inpatient services, our surgical services and our primary care clinic,” Beiswenger said.

The building is nearly 50 years old, and thus, was built to accommodate the needs of Wadena and surrounding communities at that time. Medical care has changed over the last 50 years, and the facility now doesn’t support what is needed in 2023.

“So when we look at the 1974 building, that was built at a time when approximately 90% of the care that we delivered was to patients who were classified as inpatients … As we have evolved forward now, almost 49 years, we are seeing almost a complete flip. This past year, approximately 16% of our services were provided to patients classified as inpatients,” Beiswenger said.

With the advancement of technology, techniques, and general innovations over the decades since the facility was first built, he said it’s time they view themselves as an outpatient facility rather than an inpatient facility.

The hospital’s new layout reflects this.

“We have built a facility that will actually downsize our Medicare-certified beds from 25 to 15 because that’s what this community needs, as we’ve done the analysis on it. Because again, care continues to shift into the outpatient setting,” Beiswenger said.

Surgery rooms have increased in size, emergency and general entrances have been made clearer, and rooms follow a universal design principle. Design principles were meant to enhance patient care, Beiswenger said.


“The vast majority of our 45 clinic exam rooms are set up identically … The idea is that muscle memory kicks. If you’re in operating room three versus four, you know exactly where to go for that piece of equipment that you need in the moment or the supplies or whatever the case may be,” he said.

As for the current location of the hospital campus, there are two problems that Beiswenger highlighted.

The first is expansion, as the county continues to grow, so will the need for access to medical care. Where the hospital is, future expansions would be challenging, if not outright impossible.

The facility is bound to the north by the National Guard Armory, to the east by Highway 71, and to the south by a city road.

The sign outside of Tri-County Health Care's new hospital. Once the move is complete, Tri-County Health Care will become Astera Health.
Contributed / Tri-County Health Care

“And to the west is First Street to northwestern Wadena, a pretty major north-south thoroughfare. If we needed to expand west, we could probably figure that one out with the city, but with all the other landlocked nature of our campus, it is a very difficult process to think about the additions and remodeling we would need to do,” Beiswenger said.

On top of the inability to expand, the campus just isn’t highly visible.

Beiswenger shared an anecdote about an employee and their wife, both of whom had grown up in Perham and attended college in St. Cloud.

“If you think about that, they drove through Wadena every weekend, probably for several years going to and from school. When he applied with us and eventually came to work here, his wife told him, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know there was a hospital in Wadena,’” Beiswenger said.


After analysis of traffic patterns, the determination was made to pursue Highway 10 frontage.

The new location solves both problems of visibility and future expansion.

“So we ended up finding a piece of property, 76 acres, so we don’t have those restrictions in the future,” Beiswenger said.

And with the location being right on Highway 10, in the future, no one is bound to be surprised to learn about Wadena having a hospital.

While there were certainly a lot of things to move from the old campus to the new one, one thing is being left behind: the organization's name.

Tri-County Health Care will officially rebrand to Astera Health once settled in the new campus.

The name change is meant to help with confusion and more properly reflect the organization, Beiswenger said.

“There is often confusion by folks in our communities that we are governmental owned and therefore, again, assumptions are made that we must get tax subsidies or that somehow folks are paying for this in ways other than through their health care services. With that, we decided to adopt the name Astera Health,” he said.


Tri-County Health Care is a private, not-for-profit organization governed by an 11-member volunteer board. Tri-County Health is not a part of any of the larger regional health networks.

“With that, we receive no tax subsidies from anybody, we must maintain our financial viability organizationally from the revenues that we generate from services and philanthropy, donations, grants and so forth,” Beiswenger said.

Another point is the generic nature of the Tri-County name and mix-ups with other businesses with the same namesake.

“Our Tri-County name, although it’s been a 49-year legacy for us, we believe it is not necessarily the right designation as we go forward,” Beiswenger said.

Astera is a derivative of the Greek word for star. The name symbolizes the organization's star performance, along with being a navigational star for health care needs, he said.

“What I can say is we are extraordinarily excited and here at Tri-County for the next iteration and next generation of care in our region and in our communities and we can’t wait to show it to everybody,” Beiswenger said.

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