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Luverne celebrates partnership

LUVERNE -- Friday was a day of celebration in Luverne as city leaders and officials from Sioux Valley Regional Health Services and Minnesota West Community and Technical College made official a partnership to bring higher education to the community.

With the former Luverne Community Hospital as a backdrop and a swift breeze blowing through a large canopy set up in the middle of East Luverne Street, Mayor Andy Steensma remarked that it was a good day for Luverne.

Steensma reflected on the events of the past 12 months that led up to Friday, when the city, in partnership with Minnesota West and Sioux Valley Health System, signed an agreement that will provide for two health career programs to be offered by fall 2007 in the former hospital building. Minnesota West will lease the west wing of the building, with an option to expand into other areas of the building as future growth warrants. On Tuesday, the Luverne City Council voted unanimously to move City Hall into the east wing of the building.

Minnesota West president Ron Wood said Friday was a fun day for him.

"Over the next 11 months, we will turn the energies of the last 12 months toward renovating, curriculum development, accreditations, grant writing and hiring faculty to deliver training from the new Health Career Educational Center," Wood announced to a bevy of onlookers.

Sioux Valley's role in the partnership was to gift equipment left in the former hospital to Minnesota West. In the future, Minnesota West will receive equipment from Sioux Valley as it upgrades or replaces items.

It was the potential opportunities in the layout and existing equipment that attracted Wood to the site.

"It's not often that an opportunity comes forward to create a teaching environment within a setting that exactly replicates the workplace environment for health care technicians," said Wood.

Steensma recalled the first time he and Luverne Economic Development Authority Director Jill Wolf gave Wood a tour of the facility.

"I said, 'Dr. Wood, you're like watching a kid in a candy store,'" Steensma said, explaining how excited Wood became as he was taken from room to room.

Wood returned to Worthington after seeing the building site for the first time with a vision -- a vision that will, within the next year, result in the creation of radiography technician and surgical technician programs at the Luverne campus.

Before the new courses can be made available, however, Wood said there is much work to be done. Two advisory committees will be formed to begin developing curriculum, preparing for accreditation and planning for the marketing to recruit students and hire faculty. At the same time, the former hospital building will be renovated to make way for the campus.

Wood said he hopes to have between 18 and 24 students enrolled in each the radiography and surgical tech programs for the fall 2007 semester. In addition, the campus will offer a full range of general courses via the aid of technology to be able to offer the complete Associate of Arts degree program to its students, he added.

A "major dream" said Wood, is to eventually bring a senior nursing program to the Luverne campus -- the equivalent of a junior and senior year of college that would result in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree to be attainable by those students who already have a registered nursing degree. Wood said he'd like to see that program in place by 2013.

"Twelve months ago this was only a dream," he said. "Dreams and hard work do make things happen."

Ed Weiland, president of Sioux Valley Regional Health Services, said it was truly a team effort that brought all three of the entities together.

"We've vacated more than one hospital building, but the one thing about Luverne is you always come up with new opportunities," Weiland said.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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