Committed to care

BHC Hospital celebrates planned expansion with groundbreaking ceremony
Thursday, October 11, 2018

Photo by Carl Danelski

Official “shovellers” for the Big Horn County Memorial Hospital celebrate the facility’s planned expansion the afternoon of Oct. 3 in a groundbreaking ceremony. Pictured from the left are Hospital CEO Kristi Gatrell, Hospital Auxiliary President Gale Flack, Heritage Acres Secretary Treasurer Amber Hope, Chairman of the Board Terry Bullis, Hospital President Bill Hodges and Big Horn County Commissioner George Real Bird III.

Photo by Carl Danelski

Jim Berve, President of Fisher Construction (center) and Big Horn County Hospital CEO Kristi Gatrell (right) speak with Chairman of the Board Terry Bullis following the groundbreaking ceremony.

An estimated 150 of the area’s heartiest residents stopped by the Big Horn County Memorial Hospital the afternoon of Wednesday, Oct. 3 for a free meal and to witness a groundbreaking ceremony in celebration of the facility’s planned expansion.

“It’s just an exciting time for this hospital,” Heritage Acres Administrator Paula Small-Plenty said. “Fifty to 60 years in the making.”

Hospital CEO Kristi Gatrell and President Bill Hodges spoke on behalf of the board and hospital staff, framing the expansion within the overall mission of the facility. Senior Vice President for the Montana Hospital Association Bob Olson also outlined the provisions of Initiative 185, which has so far become the second most expensive campaign fight in the state of Montana behind the U.S. Senate race. The initiative outlines a plan to solidify Montana’s Medicaid program through an increased state tax on tobacco products.

Finally, it was time for the actual groundbreaking. Official “shovellers” for the event, in addition to Gatrell and Hodges, were Hospital Auxiliary President Gale Flack, Chairman of the Board Terry Bullis, Heritage Acres Secretary Treasurer Amber Hope, and County Commissioner and future board member George Real Bird III.

“I just have one other group of people that I want to tell ‘thank you,’” Gatrell announced, prior to the groundbreaking, “and that’s the staff of this hospital. They are the heartbeat of this place, and while it’s great to have a good building and the equipment to use it, it doesn’t work if we don’t have the staff. This staff is very committed to taking care of our patients.”

Hodges also expressed appreciation to the community for once again for raising over $965,000 in the Sharing-A-Vision capital campaign 16 years prior. According to his calculations, the community will need to raise an additional $3 million in its current capital campaign fundraiser.

“We are definitely supportive and contributing to it,” Hospital Auxiliary President Flack said, and the Director of Nursing Kirsten Willoughby added, “I can tell you we are very excited and it’s much needed.”

Hardin resident Jane Slattery also spoke on behalf of the history leading up to this groundbreaking.

“I would appreciate it if you would go far enough back in history to give Ed Kopack credit for having had the foresight to give this land, on which the hospital was built, many, many years ago,” she said. “He also built the community center over here.”

Kopack, who made his fortune in Hardin through a grain and livestock business, was born of Czech ancestry and lived from 1883 to 1978.

It was clear from the turnout and atmosphere that the residents of Hardin value the facility, and look forward to seeing the expansions completed. As Two Rivers Port Authority Director Jeff McDowell pointed out, “I lived in a town that was 50 miles from a hospital. It’s nice to live in a town where it’s only five minutes away.”