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Essentia’s “Vision Northland” expansion hits milestone

Published: Nov. 9, 2021 at 7:33 PM CST
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DULUTH, MN. (KBJR) - Essentia Health’s “Vision Northland” expansion project celebrated the completion of its structural completion on Tuesday.

The $900 million project is the largest private investment in Duluth’s history.

Hospital staff and project backers met outside Essentia’s downtown campus for the first time since 2019, celebrating the placement of the final beam.

The project broke ground in 2019, but just a few months into construction, the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to halt construction altogether.

Jeff Dzurik, Project Executive for Vision Northland, says he remembers waiting to hear whether the project would be able to continue.

“In a lot of ways it was surreal. We were all sitting there on pins and needles as we were waiting for the executive order to come out,” said Dzurik.

Once the governor deemed their work essential, work was allowed to continue on the project.

Robert Erickson, physician lead for Vision Northland, said the hospital was able to use the pandemic as an opportunity to provide better care.

“The whole emergency room is negative airflow so we made that change during the design, so there are design elements that allow us to make those changes,” said Erickson.

According to Erickson, the top two to five floors of the building will have negative airflow, allowing for improved ventilation in rooms where it’s needed.

The expansion will also offer three new floors of ICU capacity, which has the potential to provide up to 96 total ICU beds, doubling Essentia’s current capacity.

Erickson believes Vision Northland will provide families and individuals across the Northland with a better sense of safety and security.

“I think they can be assured that there’s the healthcare when they need it. You don’t want to anticipate you’re gonna be in the hospital, but you have that capacity, that level of healthcare that will be there for decades,” he said.

Dzurik says Tuesday is an opportunity to reflect and celebrate how far the expansion has come but also to turn their attention to what work still remains.

“I think all of us are emotionally split. We’re excited about today, we’re a little nervous about what lies ahead, but we’re confident about what lies ahead. There’s a lot of hard work to be done and we’ve got the right project partners with us to help get it done,” said Dzurik.

The project is slated to be completed by early 2023, and if everything goes according to plan, will open to patients by the third quarter that same year.

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