Big Horn Hospital Association expands facility for improved physical therapy

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Photo by Andrew Turck
Members of 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: occupational therapist Cindy Sherman, physical therapist Toby Davis, registration specialist Hillary Murdock, and physical therapy assistants 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. While exact numbers weren’t available at press time, 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 99 to 2 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 said she no longer needs to store wheelchairs in the hospital’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, BHC Memorial Hospital 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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