Essentia Health to boost ICU capacity at new Duluth hospital

The health care provider anticipates continued intense need for critical care in the Northland.

Essentia Health construction site in Duluth
A telehandler, lower left, drives through Essentia Health's Vision Northland construction site Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. Essentia announced the new building will enable it to increase its intensive care capacity in Duluth.
Steve Kuchera / File / Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — Essentia Health announced Friday its intention to include additional intensive care capacity in the new St. Mary's Medical Center now under construction downtown.

The 17th floor of the structure had not yet been dedicated to a specific use, but will now house hospital rooms that are ICU-ready at a time when the pandemic has stretched the Northland's care capacity.

"We anticipate the health care needs of Northlanders to increase in the future, and we want to be ready for that demand," Dr. Robert Erickson, Essentia's physician lead for the Vision Northland project, said in a written statement. "With that in mind, we decided it was better to get the 17th floor fitted now and be prepared to handle an increase in patients when the time comes."

Essentia Health's board of directors has approved the build-out, which is expected to take six to eight weeks. The additional work is not expected to stretch out the timeline for the overall project, with construction slated for completion by the first quarter of 2023, allowing Essentia to begin providing patient care in the facility by the third quarter of 2023.

The work on the 17th floor of the new building will add 32 more rooms, bringing the total number of single-patient rooms in the hospital to 342. The new St. Mary's Hospital also will have one double-occupancy room in the neonatal intensive care unit for twins.


Dr. Bill Heegaard has been president of Essentia's West Market, which covers eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota, since April 2020.

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As reported by Douglas County Circuit Court.