As I write this last new hospital update for 2011, it strikes me that, while we have come so far in turning the dream of a new hospital into a reality, we have so much more than the new hospital project for which we should be thankful. For example:
• On the new hospital front we have successfully completed the design of our wonderful new hospital and have submitted a complete HUD loan application.
• Of the more than $2.5 million that has been spent on the new hospital project to date, almost $1.5 million has come from operations! This money will offset the amount of down payment that will be required at the time the loan is closed.
• And in spite of "this economy," the St. John's Foundation and Capital Campaign Committee, under the able leadership of KC Hoyer, have found new and creative ways to raise almost $1.4 million in pledges; with $900,000 dollars of those donations already collected! While not setting records, the summer golf tournament and Christmas Gala events still produced solid results, the proceeds of which will go toward the new hospital project.
• We have installed several pieces of new equipment, including a new x-ray/fluoroscopy machine and a new telephone system, both of which will be moved to the new hospital! So we get the benefit of using the new technology now and will save money for the new hospital project later.
• We are part of a pilot project for the state of Montana to increase the capacity for behavioral and mental health. This pilot project involves the University of Montana, the Western Montana Area Health Education Center (AHEC), the Northwest Community Health Center and St. John's. As the lead partner in this pilot project, St. John's has recruited and hired a clinical psychologist and a master's prepared social worker.
• As part of the Health Information Exchange of Montana, St. John's played a key role in obtaining funding and completing the necessary negotiations that will FINALLY bring high-speed fiberoptic Internet conductivity to the Libby area. This expanded bandwidth will allow the rapid transfer of medical information including x-rays and CTs. An example of the difference this new fiberoptic system will allow: a CT study that currently takes 40-60 minutes to transmit to Kalispell Regional Medical Center will only take about 5 minutes!
• The medical staff available to serve the South Lincoln County area continues to grow! Within the last couple of months St. John's hired its 6th emergency department physician. Dr. Raymond Zurcher joins Dr. Jay Maloney, Dr. Brian Barstad, Dr. Mark Heppe, Dr. Joe Nicoletto, and Dr. Mark Serra in providing 24x7 coverage of the St. John's emergency department. The Northwest Community Health Center (NWCHC) welcomed a new physician to replace Dr. Cameron Gardner: her name is Dr. Donna Smith. In addition the NWCHC added a 3rd physician, Dr. Charles LaGoy. And St. John's is currently recruiting for 2 employed hospitalists physicians!
• And as we celebrate our success in recruiting new physicians, we also pause to recognize the many years of loyal and dedicated service provided by other members of our medical staff (Dr. Greg Rice - 30+ years, Dr. Brad Black - 30+ years, Dr. Glenn Gunther - 25+ years, Dr. Jay Maloney - 20+ years, Dr. Bill Cuskelly - 20+ years, Dr. Lance Ercanbrack 14+ years, etc.).
• And I would be remiss not to mention the dedication in-service of other members of the hospital staff, some of whom have served St. John's for decades (Sue Grahm - 30+ years, Randy Wiza - 30+ years, Loren Clausen - 30+ years, Susan Horelick - 25+ years, Barb Dumont 22+ years, etc).
• We also have expanded the services we provide through our partnership with Kalispell Regional Medical Center. A specific example of the positive results this partnership produces is the weekly presence of Dr. William Highfill, Cardiologist. Working closely with our local cardiac advanced nurse practitioner Leslee Chavez, Dr. Highfill has made a tangible difference to our patients and medical staff. This partnership also resulted in the weekly presence of a mobile nuclear medicine unit. This equipment allows patients to receive nuclear medicine testing that previously would have required travel to Kalispell or beyond.
• During a time when many other hospitals were reducing the number of employees and slashing salaries and benefits, St. John's showed commitment and dedication to its employees by maintaining the current workforce with no cuts in benefits or pay!
Even as I write this, my list of things for which we can be thankful grows longer and longer! But I have already exceeded the number of words KC has assigned me for this update so I will end with a few words of personal gratitude. I am blessed to work at St. John's. I have the joy of working with a talented and dedicated administrative and management team. I am surrounded by caregivers and employees who make it their business to assure that St. John's provides "excellent health care close to home." And together, we have laid a solid foundation that will assure that St. John's continues to provide for the healthcare needs of South Lincoln County for many generations to come!
Happy New Year!
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