MeritCare, St. Mary's vying for DLHS athletic services contract
Heading into the first week of school, athletes at Detroit Lakes High School are dealing with the loss of their full-time athletic trainer. MeritCare provided the service in past years, but decided during the summer to not provide the service any...
Heading into the first week of school, athletes at Detroit Lakes High School are dealing with the loss of their full-time athletic trainer.
MeritCare provided the service in past years, but decided during the summer to not provide the service anymore. As part of its agreement with the school district, MeritCare provided its services free of charge.
"You don't know how good you had it until you don't anymore," said Detroit Lakes football coach Flint Motschenbacher.
Detroit Lakes School Board member and MeritCare physician Tom Seaworth said that cutting training services was the result of the Fargo office cutting the budget. What wasn't considered, Seaworth said, was the role that MeritCare plays in the community.
"It's been our name in the community," Seaworth said. "But the Fargo people didn't understand that."
With the start of school approaching and the fall season already starting for some sports, St. Mary's Innovis came forward with an offer to provide services.
CEO Tom Thompson said his organization saw an opportunity to serve the community.
"We're trying to meet their needs," he said.
In a letter sent to school board chairman Tom Klyve dated Aug. 29, Thompson stated that he met with superintendent Doug Froke, high school principal Steve Morben, and activities director Mitch McLeod a week earlier to find out the school's needs and expectations.
As part of its proposal, St. Mary's Innovis offered to provide a full-time trainer at the high school and hoped to retain Michelle Sonnenberg in the role by bringing her on as an employee. Sonnenberg has served as the school's trainer for several years while being employed by MeritCare.
"We really like the relationship with Michelle (had with the school)," Thompson said.
Thompson wrote in the letter that they haven't employed Sonnenberg yet, pending a final decision by the school board on whom who will end up providing athletic training services.
Despite cutting off the training relationship earlier in the summer, MeritCare has proposed another offer to the district.
Under the first proposal submitted by MeritCare, the school would pay $5,000 for training services for the 2008-09 school year.
In light of St. Mary Innovis' proposal, though, MeritCare apparently submitted an updated offer on Sept. 2.
Before the meeting started, Seaworth asked Froke if he received a fax from MeritCare with its new proposal. Froke responded that he had not.
Complicating matters somewhat is the fact that Seaworth and another board member, David Langworthy who works at St. Mary's Innovis, will recuse themselves from voting on the matter.
Aware of the Seaworth's conflict and his role in discussing the matter during Tuesday's board meeting, Thompson didn't comment directly on the subject. He did add that it was natural for Seaworth to be involved.
"Dr. Seaworth is very passionate about the service his company provides," Thompson said.
No matter who gets to provide training services in the end, Thompson said that a lack of a trainer is making it tough on athletes and coaches.
"Not having the services on the sideline is putting coaches on the spot," Thompson said. "They are working outside their realm."
Teams are making do now and Motschenbacher said it would work out in the end.
"We're just going to have to adjust and that's just the way it is now," Motschenbacher said.
Both MeritCare and St. Mary's Innovis will have another chance at pitching a deal to the board on Monday night.
Seaworth said that it's important for MeritCare to provide the service.
"We're trying to make sure that the organization understood that's who we are in Detroit Lakes," he said.
Obviously, Seaworth said that providing training service at no or a low-cost is a great public relations opportunity.
"Health care is expensive and we have an obligation to give back to the community," Seaworth said.
As a result of both companies competing for the training agreement, the public won't know the details of either proposal until right before the meeting.
"Both parties knew what each other had (offered)," Froke said why proposals won't be made public any sooner.
A final decision is expected to be made Monday. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in the district administration building.