Healthcare in Alexandria – The Early Years

In 1899 St Luke’s Hospital opened its doors, becoming the first hospital in the Alexandria area. It was located on the corner of 9th and Elm and provided for six beds. In 1926 the hospital was remodeled following a fire, and expanded to 22 beds. It continued to serve patients until 1955. A second hospital was located in the second floor of a home once owned by Charles Cowing of Cowing-Robards fame. This hospital, founded in 1917, had ten beds located on the second floor. In 1927 Dr. Edwin Tanquist demolished the elegant Brown residence overlooking Lake Winona, which had been gifted for use as a hospital, and built the stalwart Tanquist hospital in its place. In 1944, at the request of Dr. Tanquist, the Franciscan Sisters took over the operation of the Tanquist Hospital and the name of the hospital was changed to Our Lady of Mercy. Ten years later, the Sisters built a 40-bed addition to the Tanquist site where they served the region until 1969. Around the same time, in 1955, the citizens of Douglas County built a new 50-bed hospital, called Douglas County Hospital.

Coming Together for the Community

From the mid-fifties to late-sixties, Our Lady of Mercy and Douglas County Hospital served Alexandria, operating independently but offering nearly identical services. In 1969 a joint committee was formed to explore the possibility of merging Our Lady of Mercy and Douglas County Hospital. By April 1, 1969 the merger became a reality, combining the staff and resources of the two hospitals to better serve the community. Only four years later, the new 127-bed Douglas County Hospital was completed and attached to the existing building.

Continued Growth

In 1981, Douglas County voters approved a $600,000 bond issue for additional hospital beds and expansion of x-ray, surgery, and outpatient facilities. This expansion increased the capacity to 130 beds, while expanding the services and capabilities to better serve the region's growing population. In 1994 a new emergency service was added to the main entrance of the hospital, establishing DCH as a regional emergency/trauma center staffed 24 hours a day. Four years later in 1998 a state-of-the-art oncology unit was constructed, offering Alexandria much needed cancer care in partnership with CentraCare Systems and St. Cloud Hospital. The expansion of services continued in 2003 with the addition of a new Surgery Center featuring seven operating rooms, recovery rooms and facilities for outpatient procedures and outreach clinics. In 2007, a Medical Oncology Unit was added to the main floor of the hospital.

In 2010 the Douglas County Hospital saw its most extensive expansion, with a 110,000 square foot, four story addition to the hospital. The expansion cost approximately $32 million and was paid with a combination of cash on-hand and tax exempt revenue bonds. The ground floor portion was leased to Heartland Orthopedics, and the second floor provided a new surgical inpatient unit. The Birth Place, DCH’s obstetric and nursery unit, is housed on the third floor.

A Stronger Community of Care

In 2011 Douglas County Hospital announced plans to merge with community-based service providers Heartland Oprthopedic Specialists. Shortly following that, in 2012, they announced they would join forces with hometown health care leader, Alexandria Clinic. The merger of all three entities was completed July 1, 2012. Its impact has brought improved, integrated care through shared medical records and seamless continuity of care. Behind the scenes, the partnership allows for expanded recruitment of specialists and a positive economic impact to the community.As the landscape of care in the area continues to change, our community-based health care system is stronger and better equipped to move forward together, to provide health care for our exceptional community.

Looking to the Future

In 2016, the Board of Directors approved a $15 million expansion and remodel to the operating suites, same day surgical services and specialty clinics. This addition increased the number of operating suites from 6 to 10, adding 7,500 square feet. The remodel to the original 1955 building covered over 25,000 square feet and is where specialty and genral surgical clinic reside in addition to cardiology services. The project was completed in December of 2017 and will allow for future growth both clinicall and surgically.