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Becky Nelson, Sanford Health senior executive vice president/chief operating officer, talked about the Detroit Lakes MeritCare expansion project during a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday afternoon. (Brian Basham/Record)

MeritCare touts $15 million clinic expansion in DL

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Thursday noon, MeritCare in Detroit Lakes ceremoniously broke ground on its $15 million expansion and renovation project.

Senior Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer for Sanford Health Becky Nelson said Sanford "inherited" this project when the Sanford MeritCare merger was final last year, and Sanford couldn't be happier and is honored to be a part of the Detroit Lakes community.

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"This is a welcome time now that we're starting this project," she said. "Congratulations to all of you."

The project will add 33,800 square feet and remodel 25,800 square feet to MeritCare's existing building. It will add an Ambulatory Surgery Center with two surgical and one endoscopy suite. There will also be room to add two more suites if necessary.

The project will also add an additional CT scanner and expand lab services and space, imaging services, parking, optical and pharmacy services and physical therapy space, and behavior health services will be located on-site.

The expansion will allow for future growth of up to 40 specialty and primary care providers.

Dr. Bruce Pitts, president of MeritCare clinics, said when the Community Medical Center opened in 1985, there were only three physicians. That number has grown to about 23 now, and will expand.

MeritCare opened its doors at the Washington Avenue site in 1987, and has since gone through one expansion and the completion of the basement.

With the Sanford merger, he said the group has become the largest non-profit healthcare provider in the United States.

"This expansion was a group effort, with many hours over several years," Dr. Stephen Nordmark, internal medicine physician, said of the current expansion. "I look forward to the grand opening."

Detroit Lakes Mayor Matt Brenk said the addition is a "tremendous economic benefit" to Detroit Lakes because it will create jobs and be a destination for others with health care needs.

Detroit Lakes Chamber President Kris Tovson agreed that the addition is a "sales pitch for the community -- more workers, doctors and services."

The land east of MeritCare where the expansion will take place was city owned. The money from the sale was used to move the Lincoln skating rinks to Peoples Park.

"This new facility represents the commitment to this community," Pitts said.

"I wish you prosperity in the future," Brenk said.

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