by Suzanne Vernon
For the Pathfinder
April 16, 1998
The Seeley Swan Medical Center may qualify for up to $400,000 in zero-interest loans that could be used to build a new primary health care facility in Seeley Lake.
According to Dan Reiner, director of Northern Rockies Medical Services (NRMS) which operates the Seeley Swan Medical Center, Blackfoot Telephone Company has encouraged the Center to apply for the funds and Reiner will be making a formal application this month. At the same time, NRMSwhich is a subsidiary of St. Patrick Hospital in Missoulawill also apply to the Farm-Home Administration for additional funding. Trustees have also talked to area grant writers about the possibility of applying for grants to supplement the loans.
Reiner indicated that BTC is a "very strong funding source for us," during a recent meeting of the Seeley Lake-Swan Valley Hospital District trustees in Seeley Lake. He explained that a new clinic built in a more visible location could potentially be debt-free in ten years.
NRMS has leased the Medical Center since June 1997. Budget figures presented during a recent meeting indicate that the patient load at the clinic has more than doubled from previous years. Mid-level health care providers Cindy Gallea, N.P. and Ben Lindeman, P.A. have written nearly 1,000 new patient charts at the clinic since mid-summer.
The local non-profit hospital district that owns the current facility, would also own the new building and lease it to health care providers who would be responsible for day-to-day operations of the clinic. Trustees are now investigating the possibility of selling the existing facility and the land surrounding it.
Last fall, trustees approved a plan to remodel the existing Medical Center with a preliminary budget of about $160,000. However, when bids for the project were opened, the lowest bid came in at more than $250,000. Trustees then decided to pursue the construction of a new clinic.
According to Reiner, an architect will be hired this spring to design the new facility, which will be planned to include all of the services now available at the clinic plus space for physical therapy, emergency medical treatment and conference rooms. Areas within the clinic could be made available for community programs such as SSTEP, WIC and mental health and addiction programs.
Loan funds for construction of a new clinic may be available as soon as 60 days after the completion of the application process, Reiner said. It is likely, he said, that the Medical Center could proceed with construction of a new faciilty before the current Medical Center building is sold.