by Suzanne Vernon
For the Pathfinder
July 25, 1998
One local resident is wondering how the Seeley Lake Hospital District is going to pay off $400,000 in loans if a new medical center is built, especially since the district is still about $60,000 in debt to Missoula County as a result of budget problems in the early 1990s.
Anita Richards, former hospital district board member, asked hospital district trustees that, and other questions, at the board's June meeting.
The answer she heard was that the hospital district trustees probably won't be the only ones with signatures on the $400,000 zero-interest loan available soon from Blackfoot Telephone, Inc..
According to Dan Reiner, director of Tamaracks, Inc. (formerly Northern Rockies Medical Services) which currently manages the Seeley Swan Medical Center, St. Patrick Hospital will likely be asked to also sign the note. Tamaracks is a subsidiary of St. Patrick Hospital, Reiner explained.
Reiner also emphasized that St. Patrick Hospital has made a long-term commitment to provide medical services in Seeley Lake. "We (St. Patrick Hospital) have a 100-year history here. . . We're looking forward to serving this community for another 100 years," he said.
Richards said that she believes the Medical Center is experiencing good times right now in Seeley Lake, but that the future might look quite different. "Logging is going out, and you'll have recreational people. You won't have the clientele you have now," she said. "Right now is prime time, but I do see that the economy is changing. I don't want to see you go out on a limb."
Reiner tried to reassure her that even though the current lease agreement is only for another four years, St Patrick Hospital intends to stay in the Seeley Lake community, "through good times and bad."
"You had the foresight 20 years ago to build this facility and it's still serviceable today. We are looking at making this building or a new one just as serviceable 50 years from now," Reiner said.
Richards urged hospital district trustees to solicit public input about their plans to build a new clinic. "People need to have this input now," she advised.
In other business, trustees heard comments from Missoula architect John Wells regarding construction of a new clinic. Wells visited with Medical Center staff and drew up tentative plans for a new clinic.
"You have some implications here that you don't see in a typical medical office building," he said. "You've got a practice here that is part medical clinic, part emergency room and part hospital," he explained, adding that, "You have more helicopter landings here than in some hospitals I have worked on."
Hospital district trustees listened to Wells' comments then discussed possible locations for the new clinic, including the present site. They plan to evaluate all possible sites and possibly choose one of them at their regular July board meeting. Reiner indicated that he would like to see construction of the new facility begin before winter.