NRMC seeks Sen. Tester’s assistance in funding new generator, x-ray equipment

Cut Bank Pioneer Press

by LeAnne Kavanagh

When officials from Northern Rockies Medical Center met with Montana’s U.S. Senator Jon Tester on Saturday afternoon, it wasn’t a wish list they shared with him. It was a “critical needs” list that included just two items: an emergency generator and X-ray equipment.

NRMC doesn’t have the funding to purchase the $50,000 generator or the $300,000 worth of essential equipment, said NRMC’s Chief Executive Officer Cherie Taylor. She was quick to express her appreciation to the senator and his staff for their assistance during 2010 and is hopeful they will be able to assist NRMC in finding federal funds for these critical needs.

“Nothing can shut a community down faster than the loss of its hospital,” said Mayor Doug Embody during a luncheon with Tester and other community leaders Saturday. Although Embody and the Cut Bank contingency asked Tester and his staff for his assistance with several local projects, the one area they wanted to see him concentrate his efforts was the hospital.

For the last month, NRMC has been renting a backup generator to replace the 1974 model that gave out about a month ago, which is costing the facility $1,500 per month and does not address a long-term solution. Taylor said the generator went down when the state inspectors came in and did testing on it.

NRMC’s X-ray machine is working now, but it, too, is old and outdated. “We’re good as long as nothing goes out,” she told Sen. Tester, noting that parts are no longer available for the hospital’s unit, which does tests such as CT scans.

Taylor shared with Sen. Tester several statistics, including the fact that NRMC had over 2,600 emergency room visits last year; employs 85 people or the equivalent of 73 full-time employees; and nearly one-quarter of its patients are self-pay, meaning they have no insurance and do not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid.

“We are a high service need area,” she explained to Sen. Tester. The designation allows NRMC to attract National Service Corp. Scholars to its facility because they must practice in a “high critical shortage area…The Glacier Community Health Center currently has two scholars at its facility,” she continued, “otherwise they’d have no docs.”

Sen. Tester stated his staff would look into all the requests by the Cut Bank contingency, but the NRMC request would be his priority because of its urgency.

During his two-hour stop in Cut Bank, Sen. Tester took a quick tour of the community in the Glacier County Transit bus. In addition to his stop at NRMC, the senator and his staff viewed the future location of the Veterans Memorial and long-awaited overpass.

Virginia Sloan, Field Director for Sen. Tester’s Kalispell Office, said she has checked on the status of the Cut Bank Overpass Project and “it’s a go. There are still two rights-of-way they are dealing with,” she noted, but the bid letting has been set for March 11.

The spruced-up Amtrak Depot was also shown off during the brief tour, and two of Sen. Tester’s staffers offered positive comments on the community’s painted and photo murals.

The senator and his staff also toured the new veterans clinic before leaving town.

Other issues discussed at the luncheon, which was sponsored by the Cut Bank Area Chamber of Commerce, included:

  • The status of Cut Bank’s water rights and the Rocky Boy Water Project.
  • The potable water project at Cut Bank International Airport.
  • The Veterans Memorial.
  • The “4-for-2” U.S. Highway 2 Project.

In addition to Embody, those attending the luncheon were Roy Nollkamper, Cut Bank International Airport; Jeff Billman, Cut Bank Area Chamber of Commerce; Bill McCauley, Cut Bank City Council; Jerilee Wilkerson, Glacier County Development Director; and LeAnne Kavanagh, Cut Bank Pioneer Press. Glacier County Commissioner Ron Rides At the Door and Mike Bruch of the Chamber’s Economic Development Committee had planned to attend but were unable to due to scheduling conflicts