WATFORD CITY, N.D. - McKenzie County Healthcare Systems and Sanford Health have formed a partnership to expand medical services to keep up with increasing demand from the oil boom.

The partnership means Sanford specialists in cardiology, orthopedics and pediatrics will visit McKenzie County Healthcare Systems in Watford City, beginning next spring. Access to specialists will mean convenience for patients, whose population cannot support full-time specialty medical staffing, said Dan Kelly, chief executive officer of McKenzie County Healthcare Systems.

Dr. Craig Lambrecht, Sanford Bismarck president, said the new partnership could expand with additional specialists, if the demand is there.

Sanford also will expand its AirMed service in western North Dakota, with a possible helipad to be added in Watford City, and soon will introduce what it calls Mobile Med, a way of delivering health services in the Oil Patch.

McKenzie County Healthcare also plans to break ground this spring on a new medical center that will be attached to the Good Shepherd nursing home.

The project, estimated to cost $55 million to $57 million, will provide expanded emergency and clinical care.

The new hospital will have 24 beds, the same as the existing hospital, enabling it to keep its designation as a critical access hospital, which carries higher Medicare payments.

“With the growing population of McKenzie County, we have needs to expand,” Kelly said, adding that the number of clinical exam rooms will expand five-fold, to 30.

The estimated population within a two-mile radius of Watford City is 12,000, a dramatic increase from 1,500 as recently as 2010, Kelly said.

The county’s health center has one permanent doctor, but two more will join the staff in January. Temporary doctors also help, Kelly said.

McKenzie County Healthcare Systems also has agreements for visits from medical specialists from St. Alexius in Bismarck and Trinity in Minot, Kelly said.

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