Area hospitals receive over $1M in grants for diagnostic equipment, training

Astera Health, Lakewood Health System, Cuyuna Regional Medical Center and Riverwood Healthcare Center received grants for the purchase of and training on ultrasound equipment.

A medical professional uses an ultrasound on a patient.
Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby.
Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — Over $1 million in grants was awarded to several area hospitals for life-saving diagnostic equipment and workforce training.

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The multimillion grant initiative for nearly 100 hospitals and health clinics across rural Minnesota was announced by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust at a news conference Tuesday, March 21, in Minneapolis.

Area hospitals receiving grants include:

  • $400,329 to Astera Health in Wadena,      
  • $574,338 to Lakewood Health System for the hospital in Staples, Staples Clinic Women's Health and Pillager Clinic,
  • $92,550 to Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby,         
  • $233,092 to Riverwood Healthcare Center for Riverwood Healthcare Center in Aitkin, McGregor Clinic and Garrison Clinic.

Specifically, the Trust has granted nearly $18.3 million to help Minnesota hospitals and health centers purchase nearly 200 ultrasound imaging devices and an additional $8.1 million to boost sonography and point of care ultrasound training opportunities across the state.
Lakewood Health System was able to purchase three general ultrasounds utilizing the grant.

“This grant has already made a profound impact on our rural health care system and our patients,” said Lisa Bjerga, president and CEO of Lakewood Health System. “These three new ultrasounds are the same state-of-the-art equipment found in urban hospitals and are now available to diagnose and treat our patients close to home.”


Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of structures inside the body. This safe, cost-effective tool supports other clinical information to help providers make a timely diagnosis and provide appropriate treatment.

“The ultrasounds will help Lakewood meet the significant growth and demands in diagnostic imaging in the region, particularly for women’s and maternal health,” Bjerga said. “For the first time, Lakewood will provide access to fetal and pediatric echocardiography.”

Walter Panzirer, a trustee with the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, said the grants are intended to improve medical treatment in rural Minnesota.

“I often say, your ZIP code should not determine your health care outcomes, but unfortunately it does,” Panzirer said during the news conference. “We’re committed to leveling the playing field.”

Dr. David Plummer, an emergency medicine physician with Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis and a pioneer in the use of point-of-care ultrasound, said the use of point-of-care ultrasound started in the 1980s in Minneapolis, specifically on people who were stabbed in the heart.

It took little time to determine the point-of-care ultrasound could be used to detect issues that needed immediate diagnoses, Plummer said.

The need of point-of-care ultrasound though was not confined to large, urban trauma centers, Plummer said, which is why it is now taught around the world. The obstacle, especially for rural health care centers, has been access to it — in both equipment and in training.

“This equipment at the bedside will help all our colleagues around the state who are excellent,” Plummer said. “They just need a good tool in their hand in order to do the same really rapid diagnosis and disposition and interventions as large trauma centers currently enjoy.”


Dr. Robert Reardon, also an emergency medicine physician with Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis, said the grants will allow more educators to go out into rural Minnesota to train people on the equipment and application of point-of-care ultrasound.

“Every time we work, we see a patient whose life was saved by ultrasound, so that’s what makes us all really excited about going out there and teach rural providers to do this,” Reardon said. “Everybody knows they should be using this — there’s never been a pathway to do it.”

Helmsley’s Rural Healthcare Program funds innovative projects that use information technologies to connect rural patients to emergency medical care, bring the latest medical therapies to patients in remote areas, and provide state-of-the-art training for rural hospitals and emergency medical services personnel. To date, this program has awarded more than $600 million to organizations and initiatives in the states of Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

MATT ERICKSON, Editor, may be reached at or 218-855-5857.

Matt Erickson joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 2000 as a reporter, covering crime and courts and the city of Brainerd. In 2012 he was promoted to night editor and in 2014 was promoted to editor of the newspaper.
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