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Stimulus dollars aid expansion of health care in North Dakota Oil Patch

WILLISTON -- Federal stimulus dollars are helping expand health care service to communities affected by the oil boom.

United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development used funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to provide loans for the construction of facilities in Williston and Crosby.

A new Trinity Health clinic under construction in Williston was "desperately needed" to keep up with the growing population, said Theresia Swartout, director of the clinic.

The 60,000-square-foot facility will have space for seven physicians, three ophthalmologists and five optometrists.

The third floor of the facility will have three temporary apartments for new hires who don't have housing.

"We have people that want to come, but no place to live," Swartout said.

Trinity Health received a loan for $5.5 million from USDA Rural Development to construct the clinic.

The clinic is expected to be open by September.

In Crosby, St. Luke's Hospital received a similar $5.8 million loan from USDA Rural Development for a remodeling and expansion project.

Les Urvand, administrator of St. Luke's Hospital, said the expansion was badly needed to upgrade from facilities built in 1964 and to keep up with the community's growing population.

The number of patients seen in the emergency room has more than doubled, Urvand said. The clinic adds four to five new patients every week, he said.

The construction project is mostly completed, Urvand said.

USDA Rural Development is directing more of its resources to communities in the Oil Patch where the need is greatest, said Jasper Schneider, state director of the program. Other projects have included expanding broadband Internet and expanding water services.

"This part of the state is fueling North Dakota," Schneider said.

Dalrymple is a reporter stationed in the Oil Patch for Forum Communications Co.