FARGO - Cobalt Rehabilitation Hospital in Fargo has become part of the Curahealth Hospitals system of long-term acute care and rehabilitation hospitals. It will start accepting its first patients in late September, an official confirmed.

Curahealth recently purchased all five of Cobalt Medical Development’s hospitals, Fargo hospital CEO Karissa Olson said Thursday, Aug. 22. She said she was not authorized to release the purchase price or other financial details of the transaction.

Local Cobalt employees became Curahealth employees on Aug. 1, Olson said.

Plans call for the $24 million hospital at 4671 38th St. S. (just south of the Microsoft campus), to take in patients starting Sept. 23, Olson said.

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Olson said the Cobalt facilities will keep the Cobalt Rehabilitation Hospital name and will remain focused on providing free-standing, inpatient rehabilitation services.

She said 10 leadership staff members are in place at the 42-bed Fargo hospital and they are interviewing and extending offers to support staff.

Olson said the hospital also secured Dr. Luis Vilella as its medical director. He starts Thursday, Aug. 29.

The position of medical director for the Fargo facility had proven difficult to fill and was pointed to by a company official as a reason for Cobalt not having opened sooner.

Curahealth is a privately-held firm based in Garland, Texas, a Dallas suburb. Cobalt, also privately-held, is headquartered in Dallas, too.

In addition to Fargo, Cobalt Medical Development has built or is building rehabilitation hospitals in Surprise, Ariz.; New Orleans; El Paso, Tex; and Clarksville, Ind.

“We’ll be having open houses. We’ve been waiting about two years for this hospital to open,” Olson said.

“We’re doing everything” in Fargo “to get the doors open,” Olson said. “The majority of hurdles to get the hospital open have been cleared.”

The Fargo hospital is hiring nurses, therapists, certified nursing assistants, and dietary and housekeeping personnel, Olson said.

Vilella is coming from Bismarck, Olson said. Vilella had at one time led the North Dakota office of Workforce Safety and Insurance.

Vilella resigned as medical director of the workers’ compensation program in 2014 after eight years in the post. During his time at WSI, he had reportedly complained of efforts to influence his medical opinions involving worker claims.

Construction of the 58,000-square-foot Fargo hospital was completed in late July 2018.

The facility was originally planned to open in fall 2017, but Cobalt officials said hold-ups started with construction delays and a long punch list of items to be corrected.

Another reason given by Cobalt officials — since late fall 2018 — was that they were waiting to get a physician approved to be the hospital’s chief administrator. That requires approval by the North Dakota Board of Medicine to practice in the state.

In April of this year, Cobalt CEO Robert Fiske told The Forum that his firm wanted a Minnesota physician to run their hospital. Fiske said North Dakota’s certification procedure was very thorough and slow and he has no idea how much longer it would take for the man to have his license approved.

Cobalt Rehabilitation Hospital is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Rehabilitation Facilities.