Medical Center board member
explains history and current
campaign for new medical center

September 7, 2000
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana

Dear Editor,

I would like to clarify some issues concerning the Capital Campaign for the Seeley Swan Medical Center. Often I get so involved in a project I don't see the forest for the trees. Therefore, I would like to back up a little and present the 'big' picture of why the Hospital Board is doing what it is doing.

It has taken thirty years, thousands of hours and the involvement of hundreds of community members to create professional health care for this area. Our health care has evolved, changed with the times and tried to conform to the needs of the surrounding communities.

During the early years the Center operated with moneys from grants. In 1973, the Medical Center became a Hospital District. This allowed the Center to obtain mill levy support gathered in the form of taxes. The Center operated with a ten mill levy that community people voted on every two years.

During the early 1990's, voters expressed a desire for change. This, coupled with a debt of $106,000 to Missoula County, forced the Hospital District Board of Trustees to make some hard choices. Faced with the option of closing the Center or seeking an outside alliance, the Board chose the latter. In 1997, the Hospital district contracted with Northern Rockies (which later became Caron Corporation), a subsidiary of St. Patrick's Hospital for the daily operations of the Center. St. Pat's, like our own Hospital District, is non-profit.

Sadly, some facts remain the same. Rural primary care facilities cost money to operate. The Hospital District lost $25,000 a year, even with $65,000 in tax money. Without the tax money, St. Pat's has lost $100,000 each year to operate the Center in a way that supports expanded hours and multiple providers.

The District can gain additional funds by being designated as a Rural Health Clinic. To do this, our clinic building had to be upgraded. When remodeling bids came in at $275,000, the Board began looking at options for building a new Center.

The Board identified priorities: A health care facility with a helicopter pad, rooms to house emergency equipment and land for further expansion. This seemed an impossibility to a Board that faced closing the center's doors just three years previously.

In multiple ways people rose to the occasion. With the help of the Blackfoot Telephone Cooperative the Board obtained a $400,000 zero interest loan. St. Pat's signed as a guarantor for the loan, committing to pay for it through its lease payments. At the end of ten years the loan will be paid and the health clinic building will belong to our Seeley Swan Hospital District. The Chutney Foundation in Ovando awarded the District a $150,000 grant. With the future sale of the current property, the Board will have approximately $625,000.

Land was purchased and the building was started at a cost of $580,000. But that did NOT include the full cost of a helicopter pad, highway access, water mains, parking lots, electricity, sewer, phone lines, utility survey, updated medical equipment, furnishings or landscaping. These items came with a $135,000 price tag.

Determined not to raise taxes, the Board started a Capital Campaign. The response has been overwhelming. To date, $38,500 has been raised. Another $51,500 is needed to reach our goal.

Many 'old timers' remember the days when there weren't any medical services. I remember the day we almost lost what we had. Today, together, we are creating a facility that will service our communities for decades to come.

If you would like to donate to the Capital Campaign, send your tax exempt contribution to the Seeley Swan Medical Center, PO Box 1186, Seeley Lake MT 59868, or if you have any questions, suggestions, or ideas, please call myself or other Board members (Tim Love, Jack Copps, Marianne Judge, or Keith Peterson).


Mary Ann Morin
Seeley Swan Medical Center Board Member
Seeley Lake, Montana