Lost Hospital — Franciscan Skemp, Arcadia, Minnesota

In 1936, the Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of the Holy Angels in St. Paul opened a six-bed hospital in Arcadia, Minnesota. Originally named St. Joseph’s Hospital, the six-bed facility originally located in a two-story house grew to 25 beds by the end of its first year.

In 1948, a 50-bed hospital (with an additional 25 nursing home beds) was completed. The Arcadia News-Leader described the hospital as “the finest hospital in the state for a city that size.” By 1960 a new wing was added that included a chapel and dining room, and five years later the hospital spent $500,000 on a new surgical wing.

In 1975, a management agreement connected Franciscan Skemp to the hospital, and by 1983 the hospital became part of the Franciscan Health System. The Franciscan Skemp clinic built in 1981 was finally connected to the hospital by a wing in 1995.

In 2011, however, this source of pride for the town of 7,000 came to an end when Franciscan Skemp closed. It was the first time in 75 years that the city was without a hospital. “This hospital was a very important part of our community, and the community showed its support for the hospital for many decades,” said Terry Madden, an Arcadia lawyer and former hospital foundation board member. “People are upset; they feel that Franciscan Skemp is deserting the community.”

Franciscan Skemp made the announcement the hospital would close five mnoths earlier, blaming financial concerns in a town with too few patients and no population growth for the decision. The nursing home, however, remained open. “It’s going to be a sad day Thursday,” said John Nemec, vice president of regional practices for Franciscan Skemp. “It will be more like a funeral atmosphere, but it’s also a day to recognize the good work that was done there.”

The hospital had an average daily census between four and five patients (1,500 a year), and lost between $1 million and $2 million annually.  According to Nemec: “We saw too few patients at a huge cost at a time when it is important to improve care and lower costs. It boils down that Arcadia did not have enough population to support the hospital. I think people can understand that we can’t run a business without volume.”

Dr. Bert Hodous, a Franciscan Skemp family medicine physician in Arcadia for eight years, explained: “Not one single person in Arcadia has not been touched by the hospital or the nursing home. Our nurses interacted and knew a lot of dimensions of the patients.”