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Lake Region Healthcare, Red Cross announce new partnership in FF

Published 11:14am Thursday, August 8, 2013

Paul Fjestad, of Fergus Falls, had no idea what an American Red Cross volunteer driver was until he rode along with a friend who was a driver. Fjestad decided to become a volunteer driver more than 15 years ago, and he’s still part of the program today.

“It’s been fun,” Fjestad said. “I’ve enjoyed it. It’s enlightening.”

Fjestad was just one of the speakers Wednesday at a news conference announcing a new partnership between the Red Cross and Lake Region Healthcare which will strengthen and sustain transportation of life-saving blood and medical items.

The courier program has operated for decades in Otter Tail County, but the new partnership will connect Red Cross volunteers directly with Lake Region Healthcare’s volunteer program and streamline day-to-day operations. The volunteer program will be centered at Lake Region Healthcare, with the vehicles staying there, and a possibility for expansion of the program, according to Judy Green, regional chief executive officer for the Red Cross.

It will increase convenience and efficiency for volunteer drivers to start and end their days at Lake Region Healthcare.

“This was really a collaboration that was made to succeed,” said Dr. David Mair, Red Cross Mid-America Blood Services chief medical director.

Last year, Red Cross volunteer drivers traveled more than 77,000 miles and transported nearly 30,000 medical supply items to 15 different medical centers and clinics throughout Otter Tail County.

Larry Schulz, chief executive officer of Lake Region Healthcare, emphasized the partnership Wednesday and said it goes a long way toward strengthening the health of people in the region.

“Lake Region Healthcare is pleased to partner with the Red Cross to ensure this important service continues,” Schulz said. “We appreciate the many Red Cross volunteers who give so much to this program and we are looking forward to working with them even more closely on our shared goal of providing services and resources that will help improve the health of people in this region.”

Lake Region Healthcare’s support will sustain critical services provided by Red Cross volunteers.

“With today’s every-changing healthcare environment, partnerships that create efficiencies are more important than ever,” said Geoff Kauffman, chief executive officer of Red Cross North Central Blood Services Region. “We are very fortunate to be able to work in collaboration with Lake Region Healthcare to continue our tradition of serving the local community’s health care needs.”

As a volunteer driver, Fjestad makes stops in Perham, Wadena, Henning, Battle Lake, Ashby, Elbow Lake, Morris, Gracevile, Wheaton and Breckenridge.

“If we didn’t enjoy it, we wouldn’t be doing it,” Fjestad said.

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