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Mineral Community Hospital expands offerings

by AMY QUINLIVAN
Mineral Independent | May 8, 2024 12:00 AM

Scheduling important medical appointments and arranging vital procedures can be a challenge living out in rural Montana. Hospitals and clinics are spread few and far between the mountainous landscape that makes up Mineral County.

But patients do have options and to save a trip to Missoula they can explore the recent expansions and range of services at Mineral Community Hospital in Superior.

Superior native and hospital CEO Laurel Chambers Haskins detailed the new additions and improvements to the county’s only medical center.

The hospital added a new ambulance bay to connect the clinic to the hospital with a large waiting room. 

"This way patients can access lab, X-ray and hospital services without having to go outside," she said. "This area also added a 'face' toward the town.”

A decontamination room was built in the Emergency Room and another area that adds negative pressure to clean air from respiratory illnesses. The nurse’s station was revamped and centralized to allow for better monitoring of the halls and doorways. New automatic doors were installed in the front of the hospital as well as doors in the ER and service entrance. 

Chambers noted, “In addition, we have new countertops and flooring throughout the hospital. The patient rooms were completely redone with new beds, new closets and furnishings. New windows throughout the facility and new heating/cooling units also improved energy efficiency. Parking lots were paved and sidewalks added to improve handicap access.”

New equipment was also purchased and upgraded throughout the hospital and clinic. 

"A portable ventilator for ER use, new and updated LIFEPAK heart monitors, GlideScope and defibrillators, new IV pumps that allow for the programming of meds to improve patient safety, an automatic drug dispensing system which also improves patient safety, patient transport van with a lift, ER stretchers and gurney, microbiology analyzer allowing us to do culture and sensitivities in house, telemetry, auto-clave, and an outdoor area for residents,” she said.

These investments and improvements were accomplished with federal CARES Act funding and a grant from the Sunderland Foundation. 

There are a vast number of medical services and procedures that patients can schedule closer to home. 

Chambers explained, “We have two primary care providers at the clinic that provide care from pediatrics through all life stages — offering both wellness, acute care, and management of chronic diseases. We also have an integrated behavioral health care manager/population health nurse that can help our patients manage both physical and mental parts of chronic illness.”

Mineral Community Hospital also has a Physical Therapy Department. 

Chambers said, “We have a physical therapist and a physical therapy assistant to work with patients on anything from acute to chronic injuries, including post-operative rehabilitation, and provide therapy care to our skilled swing bed patients.”

Inpatient care and skilled swing bed, which is similar to transition care, can benefit people who are sick and no longer meet the criteria for inpatient care but need more assistance before being able to be independent at home. 

"Think of patients who break a hip and have surgery but are not ready to go home on their own yet," Chambers said. "That patient could come to skilled swing bed care and receive physical therapy to help with strength and mobility before going home.”

Another example would be medical management of complex conditions such as long-term IV antibiotics, or wound care. 

She added, “Skilled swing bed is a covered Medicare benefit that many patients may not know is available and can be very helpful in getting people back to their baseline or even improving strength and mobility to prevent further falls or declining health.”

For more information or questions about this service, people can reach out to Erin at (406) 822-3702. The hospital also offers non-skilled swing beds which is similar to long-term care or nursing home level of care.

Additionally, more everyday medical amenities include a full-service lab.

Chambers mentioned, “You can utilize blood draws to save a trip to Missoula even if your doctor is from out of town. To do this you would just need to bring your order or have your doctor send an order to our outpatient lab.” 

Another procedure offered is endoscopy, such as colonoscopies and upper endoscopy.

And for all those bumps, bruises and falls the hospital provides a full 24/7 emergency room and a range of imaging. 

“You can also receive imaging services at MCH, X-ray, mammography, CT scans and MRI. Similar to lab services, you can bring orders from outside provider offices as well,” said Chambers.

Current providers in the clinic include Jake Whetzel MD, and Megan Pugh PA-C. ER/hospitalist providers are John Miller MD, Brian Lopez MD, Karyn Ridgeway MD, Chris Hallberg MD, Janey Whetzel PA-C, and Karyn Thornton PA-C.

Chambers added, “Karyn Ridgeway serves as medical director for the Superior Fire Department Quick Responders, and Karyn Thornton serves as the Superior Area Ambulance Medical director.”

Also, Billings Clinic cardiologist Dr. Steven Kellogg sees patients once a month in outreach at the clinic. 

Mineral Community Hospital has telestroke providers and telehealth mental health crisis services.

Patients can also get their annual mammograms done at the hospital and MRI services for diagnostic purposes.

The Mineral Community Hospital Health Fair starts on May 6. 

"We ask that you call to schedule a time to come in and receive discounted health fair labs without the order of a provider," Chambers said. "This is a great way to get baseline labs without a visit and at a reduced cost. You can always schedule a follow-up with one of our providers or your primary care provider if you have questions regarding those results.”

The executive panel includes a cholesterol screen, blood counts as well as a metabolic panel that looks at kidney and liver function and other electrolytes as well as a thyroid test. Other add-ons include HgA1c which looks at average blood sugars, Vitamin D for bone health and PSA for prostate health.

Insurance may cover many of the tests at no cost as part of a wellness benefit for screening. 

Chambers said, “However if you do not have insurance or if you have chronic conditions such as high cholesterol or blood pressure then labs may go towards your deductible - then the cost to pay cash may be significantly cheaper to come to a health fair for labs.”

She concluded, “We feel so grateful to have been given the opportunity to upgrade our facility as it was much needed, many areas were original from when the hospital was built. 2025 will mark 50 years of Mineral Community Hospital in Mineral County.” 

For questions on the upcoming health fair or appointments, contact Mineral Community Hospital at 406-822-4841.