Breaking Ground on the Future

By Scott TedrickNew Manor Ground breaking copy

The City of Granite Falls broke ground on a new nursing home this past August in a front of a crowd of community well-wishers. “We are very pleased to get to this point and be able to break ground after three years,” said Hospital General Manager and CEO George Gerlach. “It will be a facility that the community will be proud of and that residents will want to live in.”

Gerlach offered a brief speech before hospital staff and board members joined representatives of Tremain Architects and Planning, of St. Paul and Kraus-Anderson Construction in donning hard hats and tossing piles of earth to the air, to kick off construction of the $8.41 million, 48,000 square foot facility.

Located adjacent to Granite Ridge Place on the east side of town up on an 8.1 acre plot of land, the project will also include roughly $1.5 million in new street and utilities developments to the site on East Jordan Drive

Financed through USDA Rural Development, the project will replace original structures that date back to 1948 and 1959. That 57-bed nursing home was deemed “obsolete” in two separate facility studies that were implemented in 2002 and 2011.

Employing a modern, more cost efficient, single floor layout the new 48-bed manor plan goes to great lengths to address desires for more space and privacy while also featuring an array of additional upgrades amenities that would allow nursing home staff to cater to needs of most any type of patient.

Construction is expected to be completed in the fall.

New Manor Ground breaking copy

New Manor Ground breaking copy


Linda Ims Retires

After 22 years of service to the Granite Falls Hospital, Linda Ims, LPN has retired! She is a fantastic nurse and will be greatly missed by her co-workers and patients. Best of luck in retirement Linda! linda

Hughes Leaves Lasting Legacy with Granite Falls Ambulance

By Scott Tedrick

Walk down main street Granite Falls under more inviting weather conditions and chances are good that you’ll cross paths with an individual who is either alive, or functioning at a higher capacity, because of the direct or indirect impact of Granite Falls Ambulance Director Gene Hughes.

“That’s something you can say without a doubt,”  said ACMC Family Physician, Dr. Art Rillo. “You can probably walk downtown and see quite a few. Really, it’s hard to explain just how much impact he had, but he was a real difference maker.”

The news that the thirteen-year Granite Falls Ambulance Director succumbed to a heart attack while vacationing in Mexico  hit the area health community hard this past week. The 64-year-old Hughes, is recognized as the guiding force behind the ambulance’s transformation  from a 6-8 member volunteer Basic Life Support (BLS) crew, to a 40 member Advanced Life Support (ALS) service viewed as one of the most cohesive and best, if not the best, small ambulance squads in the state.

Hughes meets a need

It was just over a decade ago that an initiative to upgrade local ambulance capabilities paved the way for Hughes’ arrival in the community.  At the time, Hospital Administrator and CEO George Gerlach, recalled how Dr. Rillo and fellow Family Physician Dr. Darrell Carter were heavily advocating for improved pre-hospital care in spite of recommendations of the hospital’s former management company.

“Our advice from Allina Health Systems was that we shouldn’t do it because we wouldn’t have the volume to maintain the skills of paramedics,” said Gerlach. “Then in 2000 we left the corporation and became independent and the push to upgrade the service was even greater.”

Hospital adminstration would interview a number of candidates before coming to Hughes, who arrived with a significant degree of praise from Rillo. It was during a prior working relationship — where Interestingly, Dr. Rillo’s wife, Billie, was a paramedic student under Hughes, and Hughes’ wife, Cindi, was a nurse under Dr. Rillo–– that Rillo said he was able to witness the impact Hughes had on the transformation of North Dakota Ambulance service and so knew he had the capacity io achieve desired local outcomes.

With a contagious passion for his work and a long list of certifications and skills, ” He was the leader we were looking for,” said Gerlach.  ”We wanted him to bolster the ambulance service and, if he could, to bring it from Basic Life Support  to Advanced Life Support, and from my perspective he not only met but far exceeded what I expected him to do. Just consider, we were a small volunteer service of 6-8 EMTs and now we’re operating four rigs with paramedics cross-trained as Registered Nurses (RNs) and RNs that have crossed trained as paramedics, and then we’ve also added the Special Transportation Service (STS) besides.

According to Rillo, the volunteer, BLS ambulance offered prior to Hughes’ time essentially limited crew member responsibilities to just the pick up and drop off of patients. ALS certification, on the other hand, equips squads with the tool sand training necessary to begin administering care procedures  immediately.

In a world where mere minutes can be the difference between life and death, this change in approach is hugely important. And Hughes set the tone in terms of attitude and work ethic inspiring success in all department members enabled only through their whole-hearted buy-in.

He meant everything

Appointed Interim Ambulance Director in the wake of his death, Jana Berends is able to offer insight attesting to Hughes’ impact from  the rare perspective of somebody who has been there since before he arrived.

“Honestly he meant everything to this department,” she said. “When he came here we were a BLS service and he took us from the point where we were at––when we thought we knew and were doing  everything we could––and brought us to the level it’s at today.”

Berends said it was at the urging of Hughes that she would make the years of commitment necessary to achieve her own accreditations, first, as a paramedic and, later, as a nurse, so to further develop her abilities to meet patient needs.

“Gene was a father figure to most of us, especially those who have been here for a really long time,” she said. “He saw potential in each and every one of us and he pushed hard and drove hard, he was always adding one more thing.

“That was the expectation, she continued––that we take care of every patient like they’re our own.”

Beyond the individual motivation, Berends, Rillo and Gerlach all echoed one another in recognizing Hughes’ impact on the cohesion of the Granite Falls health services as a whole.

“There are a lot of hospitals where there is a turf line drawn: “this is hospital care and this is pre-hospital care, and we keep those two separate,” Rillo explained.  ”Here it has gotten to the point where the pre-hospital crew and our ambulance crew work with our nursing crew and it works out very well–and it should.”

Previously unthinkable, it is this spirit of cooperation and mutual support that Berends said the Granite Falls Ambulance hopes to tap as they come to terms with having to move forward without Hughes as the tone setter and torchbearer for the ambulances ascension.

“Our ambulance service is such a tight-knit group that he has shaped and molded with bonds built to carry us through this year and the years to follow,” said Berends. “Gene would want this to be bigger and better because, again, it’s never enough. We need to do more and learn more and work with our doctors more and continue to build and strengthen those relationships that he has worked so hard to build.”

If there’s a silver lining, it is that Hughes did have the time to make establish a legacy that will go on serving the community well after his passing. And even though he wasn’t able to realize every components of his vision––for instance his most recent effort raising funds for a new ambulance garage to adequately house personnel and equipment––others, who have come to hold a reverence and passion for the vision Hughes laid the foundation for, will see it through.

“Leaders don’t make better followers,” said Berends. “Leaders make leaders. And that’s what he did with us.”


Prepared Childbirth Classes for 2015

Granite Falls Municipal Hospital Childbirth Education presents:

Sibling Class “Mommy’s Little Helper” and Daddy “Boot Camp”

March 7, 2015
9:00am Sibling Class

10:30am Daddy Boot Camp
at the
Granite Falls Hospital Professional Building
1265 6th St.
Granite Falls, Minnesota


Breastfeeding Support Group
March 12, 2015
at the
Granite Falls Hospital Professional Building
1265 6th St.
Granite Falls, Minnesota


I’m Here! Now What?

March 21, 2015
at the
Granite Falls Hospital Professional Building
1265 6th St.
Granite Falls, Minnesota

Class Topics:
Understanding newborns, breastfeeding, and the postpartum


Mom 2 Mom Support Group

March 26, 2015
at the
Granite Falls Hospital Professional Building
1265 6th St.
Granite Falls, Minnesota


Questions? Contact Debbie Eakes, CBE and Doula at or

Kristin Canatsey, RN at


All classes are offered free of charge!


Dr. Ken Retires

Dr. Ken Carter

By Nicole Zempel
Advocate Tribune Correspondent

When asked how it feels to leave the work that has, in many ways, defined him for nearly five decades – Dr. Ken Carter smiles and with a laugh says, “It’s sort of a shock.”
But this, however, is not for lack of preparation. In fact, it seems the ability of foresight has set the tone for much of Dr. Carter’s life – and, in this regard, entering into a new phase is really no different.
And so it was, that a three month “practice retirement” seemed most fitting.
“I didn’t really miss working,” while touring the southwestern United States said Dr. Carter, but some 6,500 miles later, “the finality of it is sort of difficult.”
Dr. Carter began his career as a family practice physician in 1969 – and of those forty-six years, forty-four have been spent in Granite Falls.
“I visited Appleton, Wheaton, Montevideo, Canby, Marshall – I looked at a lot of different communities and then I went into the old clinic.”
The expression on his face and elevation in voice says that it was the room with a view, in Granite Falls, that won him over,
“At that time, the clinic was right on the river and I was really quite a duck hunter,” and with the same amazement as years earlier says, “I looked out the window and there were ducks in the river – right below my window – and that just really knocked my socks off to look at that!”
What brought him to that window had much to do with his uncle Frank, a visit with his hometown veterinarian and, that foresight.
“I was thinking about going into veterinary medicine and Frank suggested that family medicine, with all the future developments, would be much more interesting for me.”
Yet, it wasn’t until after his first year of pre-vet courses and visit with a young twenty-something veterinarian that he made a decision that would set him on his true course.
“He was already showing signs of burn out,” says Dr. Carter as he recalls thinking, “Boy, this doesn’t look good, this could be me in another twenty years.”
So, upon returning to school he submitted an application to medical school and was accepted.
“Medical school was really a lot of fun – I guess I had confidence that I could do what I needed to do. And, I look back and I had wonderful teachers!”
Perhaps because he is the product of parents who were both teachers that he is able to identify this quality in others – but as they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Dr. Carter’s wife, Lori, echoes a similar sentiment, “It’s his way of structuring thoughts in order to have organization and communication…he has the ability to see clearly what needs to happen.” Adding, “he’s decisive, clear and good at diagnosis – he will tell you straight what he sees and has an effective way of delivering any message.”
And while there is an acknowledged sense of accomplishment by Dr. Carter in a body of work which spans decades and happens to include developing rewarding relationships, helping to improve the health and well-being of others, saving lives, and delivering babies – lots of babies…
As Dr. Carter looks back, it’s really the moments in which he was able to help lay foundations for the benefit of future growth that seems to arouse the greatest sense of achievement.
“I had the opportunity between my freshman and sophomore year of medical school to be in a research dog lab at the U of M hospitals – what I did that summer was working on a project that was the precursor for the current bypass heart surgery of today.”
There is also the influencing of the current location of the clinic, serving as a Medical Advisor developing protocols and plans for the beginnings of what would eventually come to be known as Project Turnabout, and the implementation of a Telestroke system to name only a few.
But it was while speaking about becoming a finalist for physician of the year that gratitude took hold of Dr. Carter.
Some fifty letters were submitted on his behalf to the Academy of Family Practice and in these letters a steady theme emerged, “In terms of medicine, people were remembering that I taught them something.”
It seems fitting then that a man who describes himself as more of a “comprehensive physician,” and someone who, “loves bouncing ideas off of people,” would find his greatest joy in helping others for the benefit of something larger than himself.
While a sense of joy and fulfillment have lent themselves to a long and satisfying career in medicine, it is no doubt the gift of foresight that saved Dr. Carter from the burnout that he says, “forty-seven percent of physicians experience in their career.”
Lori recalls a time when her husband was on call every other night, plus delivering babies, “There would be easily three or four nights in a row with not enough sleep,” adding that, “he was always wanting to be present and trying to be present – but there are only twenty-four hours in a day.”
Dr. Carter adds, “I think at the time when I went into the geriatrics around twenty years ago I was starting to run out of gas a little bit – I think you kind of go through phases in your life saying well this is great or that’s great – but you have to reinvent yourself and rejuvenate yourself.”
“The great thing about medicine is that there are all these choices,” says Dr. Carter. “I’ve always said that I’m going to keep doing this till I’ve seen everything new. I can honestly say in the last forty-five years I haven’t had a single day where I haven’t seen something that I would consider new.”
It was in this spirit that Dr. Carter took an added exam for geriatrics and found that working with the elderly was something he really enjoyed.
“Geriatric patients are tremendously grateful for what you do – it just makes practice fun along with the intellectual challenges.”
“I got the most joy when a family would come in – I wanted the whole family in to help get the whole story – I felt that was really fun – communication with the whole family.”
As for what’s to come next Dr. Carter says, “I’m sort of playing with my options – so I’m working on that side of it.”
Adding to this, words spoken by his mentor in 1968, “You should never concentrate on retiring from something – you should concentrate on retiring to something – and I think that’s a great bit of advice.”
The ability to prepare and to look ahead has always been a strength for Dr. Carter – and surely what lies around the corner will be just as extraordinary.

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