When the Government Goes Out of Business

April 11, 2019  |  Scott M. Lepak

The North Suburban Hospital District, a political subdivision representing the citizens of Blaine, Fridley, Hilltop, Mounds View and Spring Lake Park, quietly and gracefully ended its long existence on April 10, 2019. The Hospital District was formed in 1960 for the primary purpose of building and initially operating Unity Hospital in Fridley. At the time it was formed and for the next 50 plus years, the Hospital District provided its citizens with a locally focused and stand-alone hospital providing a broad range of services.

In meeting its obligation to the citizens of the five cities, the Hospital District contracted with service providers who operated the hospital. In recent years, the Hospital District weaned Unity from relying on tax dollars and did not levy taxes on its citizens.

With the advancement and consolidation of health care in the metro area, the Hospital District board determined that it accomplished its mission. Unity is a facility that has been significantly updated. The area is now served by two hospitals as well as multiple clinics providing a broad array of services. Health care is a regional rather than local issue and is less centralized. An individual can now go into their local clinic and receive care that was only provided in hospitals as recently as a decade ago.
In liquidating its assets, the Hospital District board provided Spring Lake Park with real estate located in the City and distributed $5.4 million to the four remaining member cities as part of its dissolution plan.

I was privileged to serve as the Hospital District’s general counsel for over a decade. I am proud of each board member and the tiny part time staff of one who served during that time. It was an honor to work with every one of these community focused individuals.

People are often frustrated at the concept of government due to its size, scope and inefficiency. The finest example of government often is found at the smallest and most local level. The Hospital District served as a glowing example of citizens identifying a need for a health care facility and forming a governmental entity to meet that need. When the private sector was able to provide the needed services, the Hospital District determined that it could step aside and return unused tax dollars to its citizens. It operated under the premise that government should exist only when needed.
Thank you to the Hospital District Board for allowing me to be a small part of such a wonderful entity.