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Big Horn Hospital Association expands facility for improved physical therapy

Editor’s note: Due to errors in last week’s article, “Hardin Clinic expands facility for improved physical therapy” – starting with the title – the story has been reprinted with corrections.
Thursday, March 21, 2019
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Photo by Andrew Turck

Members of the Big Horn Hospital Association’s physical therapy unit are pictured by a set of parallel bars used to help patients regain mobility. From the left: Cindy Sherman, Toby Davis, Hillary Murdock, DonD Boyer and Jaclyn Castleberry.

Local health care providers and patients with mobility issues now have more room to stretch out, following the recent expansion of Big Horn Hospital Association’s physical therapy unit. Both the unit’s gym and private patient treatment rooms have doubled in size, according to Hospital CEO Kristi Gatrell.

Physical therapist Toby Davis said the unit’s four providers have treated people from ages 2 to 99 for problems including “acute injuries, chronic injuries, post-surgical injuries [and] neural injuries.” Roughly 30 patients arrive per day, Davis said, and the clinic is bringing in about 45 new patients per month. When the working space was smaller, he continued, it was difficult at times for people to navigate – especially those using wheelchairs.

Occupational therapist Cindy Sherman, who arrives twice a week from St. John’s Lutheran Ministries retirement community in Billings, said she no longer needs to store wheelchairs in the unit’s gym. Now, there is an extra room in which to place them.

“I had a gentleman in here and he’s in a power chair,” she said. “When everyone has people, it’s easier for him to maneuver around our clinic.”

To treat a variety of ailments, the physical therapy unit contains parallel bars, weight machines and treadmills. Davis said the unit is in the process of updating its exercise equipment.

“Being that we’re the only physical therapy unit in the county, we get a lot of patients,” Davis said. “The ability to handle this increase in patient load is what we’ve been striving for and this finally is allowing us to do that.”

In addition to the unit, Fisher Construction from Billings also is expanding the hospital’s emergency department, patient rooms and entryway. CTA Architects Engineers, also of Billings, laid out the plans.

Total cost for the project will be more than $11 million, Big Horn Hospital Association Foundation Executive Director Bill Hodges said. Currently, he continued, the hospital has borrowed $10 million; $7 million is on a 20-year loan and $3 million is on a five-year loan.

Hodges intends to raise the $3 million through the foundation, a 501(c)3 charitable organization.

“Currently, we have $1.1 million pledged toward that $3 million,” Hodges said, drawing from a combination of donations from the community and “hospital family,” and a $400,000 block grant. “I’m offering luncheons throughout the week for community donors to come in… understand the project and hopefully donate.”

Montana Coal Board also has been helpful, he said, as it awarded the hospital $250,000 toward the project in December.

“We’re designated as a critical access hospital and I’m going to play on words: It’s a community access hospital,” Hodges said. “I think that makes a big difference for the public getting behind the effort.”

Right now, he said, the public has raised about $200,000. Eventually, he hopes to bump that number up to $1 million.

The hospital’s patient rooms and emergency department, he said, are expected to be finished by May. Though Fisher’s contract deadline is October 2020, he continued, “I sense we’re going to beat that.”

“I think it will be more like mid-August,” Hodges said.


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