Welia Health Connections
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Our history

Since 1907 when Dr. A.J. Lewis welcomed patients into his Mora home for post-operative care and chronic disease management, we’ve aimed to live up to his example. Take a look back at how far we’ve come.


Welia Health becomes a non-profit organization

To help ensure Welia Health remains competitive, operational, and independent – and to best serve the interests of the communities it serves – it was annexed from Kanabec County and established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.


Orthopedic robotic arm used in surgery
Robot streamlines joint replacements

Welia Health becomes the first rural healthcare provider in Minnesota to use Stryker Mako, a robotic arm-assisted machine for total hip, total knee and partial knee replacement surgeries.

COVID-19 hits close to home

Kanabec County records its first case of COVID-19 on May 1.

COVID-19 arrives in East Central MN

Pine County records its first case of COVID-19 on April 8.

Virtual care visits introduced

Welia Health introduces virtual care visits to allow patients to talk directly with their provider from the comfort and safety of their homes or anywhere.


Welia Health logo
Welia Health introduced
Launch of a new era in care

In August 2019, with our Mora Campus expansion complete, we launched a new era — and a new name. Learn more.


Expansion continues
Wellness Center Grand Opening

FirstLight Health Systems holds a ribbon-cutting ceremony and public celebration of the opening of the FirstLight Community Wellness Center.

Rendering of Welia Health Mora construction project
Hospital and Clinic Expansion
Building a healthier tomorrow

The completion of this multi-phase, $50 million expansion and renovation of the Mora campus enables the hospital and clinic to accommodate continued growth in surrounding communities, and improve patient access, services, security and technology.


Wellness Community Center indoor track and sport courts
Community Collaboration
New community wellness center

In a joint venture, Mora Public Schools and FirstLight Health System break ground on a year-round community wellness center.


Seven decades and counting

Celebrating seventy years of serving our neighbors, providing quality care, close to home.


Ribbon cutting ceremony at the Pine City clinic
New building, new services

A brand-new clinic, built from the ground up, brings urgency services and a community pharmacy to Pine City.


The Joint Commission National Quality Approval
Recognized for quality
Seal of approval
  • Earned the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for Accreditation
  • Honored by the Minnesota Hospital Association with the Good Catch for Patient Safety Award


Image of a women and digital mammography
Digital mammography
State-of-the-art women’s health

Among the first health care providers in Minnesota to feature digital mammography.

Innovative orthopedic care

3D technology implemented for custom-fit knee replacement

Advanced cancer care

Introduced cryotherapy, a minimally invasive treatment that uses extremely cold temperatures to kill cancer tumors.

From hospital to health system

When Kanabec Hospital purchased the Allina Medical Clinics in Mora, Pine City and Hinckley, the newly integrated system was renamed FirstLight Health System.


Image of an electronic medical record
Leading the way
Health records go digital

Ranked highest in the state for Electronic Medical record adoption.

New imaging technology

New MRI and CT scanner for advanced angiograms, non-invasive cardiac imaging, and updated x-ray technology.

Pharmacy takes on patient safety

Medication therapy management pairs a trained pharmacist with a patient for a one-on-one review of prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and supplements to help ensure patient safety.

Pine City logo
Serving new communities
Expanding to the east of Mora

Outpatient clinic opened in Pine City.

Physical therapy
Expansion of service
Building clinic offerings

Physical therapy comes to Hinckley.


Bringing care closer to home

New chemotherapy and outpatient services.


Hospital reception area
Hospital and clinic renovations
A welcoming reception area

New reception and waiting area unveiled.

Sweet dreams

Kanabec Hospital opens a new sleep lab.


Excellence in cardiac care

Kanabec Hospital is part of the nation’s premier heart attack program.


Better space for better care

New surgery suite. Expanded rehabilitation therapy.


60th anniversary banner
Milestone celebration
Six decades of care

Kanabec Hospital celebrates 60 years.


Allina logo
Collaboration with Allina
Good neighbors

Allina Mora Medical Center offices moved to the building adjacent to Kanabec Hospital by lease arrangement.

Growth spurt

Kanabec Hospital grew significantly in 2003 with two major building projects that included: moving the clinic to the hospital campus, doubling the capacity of the lab, emergency, and rehabilitation areas, and creating an 18,000-square-foot surgery center.


American Diabetes Association
Serving patients with education
Recognized diabetes program

Diabetes Education program is recognized by the American Diabetes Association. This recognition has been maintained since 2002.


Innovative surgical technology

First telesurgery performed.


Caring for Kanabec’s kids

Kanabec Care and Crisis Nursery opened. Local organization offers services for parents and families in crisis.

Caretaker holding an elderly person's hands
Expanding our services
Caring for our seniors

Inpatient geropsychiatry and senior behavioral health services offered to focus on the unique physical and emotional needs of senior adults.

Giving back to our community

The hospital auxiliary group, a volunteer organization, is formed.

Infant hearing screening
The latest screening protocols
Our littlest patients

Infant hearing screening program introduced.


Kanabec Hospital entrance
Accommodating growth
Changes to improve the patient experience

Continued growth necessitates changes to the facility. Main entrance relocated to the east side of the building, facing highway 65.


Close-up of eye and laser
Medical Advances
New treatment for vision introduced

First laser eye surgery performed to correct vision, commonly called LASIK.

Surgical milestone

First live organ transplant performed.


Eye Center hits Main Street
New space for optical patients

Eye clinic relocates


Heliport in front of hospital
Prepared for trauma patients
New ‘AirCare’ service comes to Mora

Helipad welcomes North Memorial’s Air Care program.

Robotic surgery
Medical advances
Virtual surgeons

First robotic surgery was documented.


Women with cochlear implant
Medical advances
Technology and restoration of hearing

The 1st cochlear implant used.


Hepatitis B vaccine
Medical advances
Protecting against dangerous infections

The first vaccine for Hepatitis B approved by the FDA to guard against a potentially life-threatening liver infection.


First MRI
Medical advances
MRI technology

The first magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners enable the most advanced imaging of the human body.

Combatting birth defects

The first fetal surgery performed. For unborn babies with specific birth defects, in-utero surgery offers hope.


A breakthrough for diabetics

The first commercial insulin pumps were introduced.


Child with chicken pox
Medical advances
Combatting infection disease in children

The first vaccine for chicken pox was introduced.


Kanabec Hospital historical image
Continued growth
Third expansion to the hospital

A brand-new wing added to the hospital along with new equipment and additional beds (from 32 beds to 63 beds). Facility-wide renovation was financed with $1M dollars from HUD.


Protecting children from viruses

The first vaccine for rubella introduced. In addition to protecting children, the vaccine protected pregnant women from passing the infection to their unborn babies.


Fighting infectious diseases

The first vaccine for mumps approved by the FDA.

Time Magazine cover and first heart transplant
Medical advances
First human heart was transplanted

On December 3, 1967, Dr. Christiaan Barnard and his team in South Africa performed the world’s first human-to-human heart transplant, the world’s most widely reported medical event ever.


Medicare becomes law
Medicare becomes law
Medicare began to be used.

On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law, providing health insurance to people age 65 and older, regardless of income or medical history. Former President Truman was issued the very first Medicare card during the ceremony.


Medical breakthrough

First vaccine to combat the measles introduced


First hip replacement image
Medical advances
First hip replacement performed

The first hip replacement with a stainless-steel ball and joint was performed that Columbia Hospital in South Carolina.


Hospital historical photo
Continuing to grow
Second expansion to the hospital

The renovation added an obstetrics suite, new operating room, new lab and x-ray department. Total cost for the project cost was $88,000


The first pacemaker
Medical advances
The first cardiac pacemaker implanted

Earl Bakken, founder of Medtronic, developed the first wearable transistorized pacemaker at the request of Dr. C. Walton Lillehei. Lillehei, known as “Father of Open-Heart Surgery,” was from the University of Minnesota.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
Medical advances

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), the emergency procedure that combines chest compressions often with artificial ventilation, is introduced.


Oral contraception over the years
Medical advances
The Pill is approved

The FDA approved the use of a pill to regulate menstruation. Soon, it would become better known for its contraceptive “side effects.”


Breakthrough in diagnostic imaging

The first medical ultrasound introduced.


Polio is combatted

The first polio vaccine developed by Jonas Salk came into use in 1955.


Hospital historical photo
Hospital experiences growth
More space needed

The first expansion of the hospital, on the east side of the building, adds 10 more beds.


Hospital historical photo
Mora welcomes Kanabec County Hospital
New county hospital built

The hospital officially opened on December 26, 1945, but accepted an emergency case the day before.
The facility boasted 22 beds and 8 bassinets, with many beds in the halls. Construction was delayed two years because permission was needed from Washington DC during World War II.

An early dialysis machine
Medical advances
Breakthrough for kidney patients

The first dialysis machine introduced, sometimes called the “artificial kidney.”


First vaccine for influenza introduced

Jonas Salk and Thomas Francis developed the first vaccine against flu viruses. It protected the U.S. military forces against the flu during World War II and millions more.


Blood samples
Medical advances
The first blood bank established

During World War I, stored blood was used safely, allowing for the development of the first blood bank.


The first defibrillator
Medical advances
The first defibrillator introduced

Two physiologists from Switzerland discovered that small electrical shocks could induce ventricular fibrillation in dogs and that larger charges would reverse the condition, leading to a life-saving medical device still used today.


Petri dish of penicillin
Penicillin discovered

A monumental breakthrough in treating bacterial diseases. These chemical agents, called antibiotics, saved many lives during World War II.


Insulin discovered for treatment of diabetes
Medical advances
Insulin first used to treat diabetes

Canadian medical students perform experiments on the pancreases of dogs, leading to the most important medical breakthrough for diabetes to date.


Tuberculosis vaccine introduced

After 13 years of effort, French bacteriologists Albert Calmette and Camille Guérin developed a vaccine for tuberculosis, a deadly disease that, at one point in the 1800s, took the lives of 1 in 7 people.


Vicks VapoRub - Then and Now
Medical advances
Vicks Vapo-Rub introduced

Vicks Vapo-Rub became famous during the influenza epidemic.


Early ad for whooping cough
Medical advances
Fighting respiratory disease and protecting public health

The first vaccine for pertussis (whopping cough) was introduced to combat the highly contagious disease.


Hospital historical photo
The early years
Mora gets its first hospital

Mora Hospital closed and Kanabec Hospital opened, but would continue to operate under the name of Mora Hospital. When the new facility itself was built, it was equipped with modern conveniences and appliances.


The beginnings of healthcare in Mora

The story goes that Dr. A.J. Lewis started a ‘hospital’ in his Mora home. Here he housed patients following surgery and managed care for those who needed constant attention.


Image of the first xray
Medical advances
The first x-ray

Wilhelm Roentgen, a Bavaria physics professor, was the first to discover the use electromagnetic radiation to create what we now know as the x-ray. The very first x-ray is an image of his wife’s hand, with her wedding ring.

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