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Location still under consideration
Medical Center construction
delayed until next spring

by Suzanne Vernon
For the Pathfinder
October 15, 1998

Construction of a new medical facility in Seeley Lake isn't likely to begin this fall, hospital district trustees confirmed Monday night.

Board members voted in August to build a new medical facility at the present Seeley Swan Medical Center site if the hospital district qualified for and received $400,000 in low-interest loans.

The loan request, which has tentatively been approved, is still pending. With the construction season already winding down for this year trustees are now looking forward to breaking ground in March or April of 1999.

In September, the board was also presented with a possible opportunity to purchase land along Highway 83 to be used for the new medical facility. Trustees are continuing to discuss that option with landowner Dave Stewart of Lindbergh Lake, and have scheduled a meeting at 6 p.m. on October 26 at the Medical Center to review new information about the financial implications of a possible move.

During their investigations, trustees also learned that the existing Medical Center site is "nearly perfect" as a helicopter landing site, according to Mary Ann Morin, board chairman who reported about helicopter access at Monday's meeting.

Morin explained that any new medical facility in Seeley Lake will require a safe landing zone for helicopters.

In other business, the board authorized Northern Rockies Medical Services to proceed with recommended improvements at the existing Center. Minor changes are planned in the office and reception areas of the clinic to better serve patients this winter.

Trustees also signed a letter addressed to the Missoula County Commissioners thanking them for their support of hospital district projects during this past year. Morin pointed out that in 1996 the Medical Center "nearly had to shut its doors" because of financial problems. However, since the clinic was leased last year to Northern Rockies Medical Services, a subsidiary of St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, the clinic has expanded its hours and its services, and now appears to be strengthening financially, Morin said. The hospital district has been able to pay off about $53,000 owed to Missoula County and still keep the clinic operating, she said. In 1996, the hospital district was more than $100,000 in debt.

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