What a year, eh? The RiverTown newsroom looked back on 2020 to compile lists of the most important news and sports stories covered by the Star-Observer and Republican Eagle. Check back to Top 10 Stories of 2020 over the next few days to see what made the cut.

RIVER FALLS — Allina Health stepped away from delivering babies and stepped in to replace the city’s ambulance service in 2020.

The Birth Center at River Falls Area Hospital was closed April 4 in response to declining birth rates and the mutual ending of a partnership with Hudson Physicians, which had provided delivery doctors for the hospital.

“The last five years we’ve seen a steady decline in volume of deliveries. In past years we have been at less than 100 deliveries, around 85,” River Falls Area Hospital President Helen Strike said in February.

The 25-bed critical access hospital is part of the Allina Health network. Patients were directed to other nearby Allina Health locations: Regina Hospital in Hastings, Minn., and the Mother Baby Center at United and Children’s Minnesota in the Twin Cities. Employees affected by the center’s closing were directed to other job opportunities.

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Allina Health shifted focus to a Women’s Health Clinic on the River Falls hospital campus.

“For right now, there’s a significant amount of pregnancy care and delivery services available to our community and we hope that we are able to build a substantial OB/GYN practice at our Allina clinic,” Strike said.

EMS contract

The year also saw the transition of River Falls EMS services to Allina Health following a request for proposal in 2019. Increased expenses and decreasing revenue from fee-for-service programs raised concerns about the sustainability of the city’s EMS program. The department operated under a funding deficit in 2017 for the first time in its 45-year history, according to the city.

City Council unanimously approved the shift to Allina Health in February. Council members then voted to repeal two chapters in the Municipal Code pertaining to ambulance service, paving the way for a Nov. 16 transition. Allina Health is required to provide quarterly performance reports to city staff, which also will be shared with the council in 2021.

The agreement includes EMS services to surrounding communities including Clifton, Pleasant Valley, River Falls, Oak Grove, Troy, Kinnickinnic and Prescott.

Hudson made a similar move in 2019 by contracting its ambulance service to Lakeview EMS.