Understanding Your Medical Bills

    Understanding Your Medical Bills June 12, 2024

    By: Jessica Ophus

    Have you ever gotten a bill in the mail from Big Sandy Medical Center (BSMC) or another medical facility and thought to yourself, 'what in the world does this mean?' Chances are, you have probably had a thought similar more than once. The medical billing system in American healthcare is confusing from the beginning to the end of the process, but that doesn't mean it should be totally foreign to you. The billing department at BSMC has been working hard in the last few years to streamline the process, prevent errors, and make it easier for the patients to understand. It is a constant work in progress.

    One of the challenges that all healthcare facilities face is the reality that service is provided long before the patient has an opportunity to make a payment. A mechanic can require payment before returning your vehicle. A photographer can not release images to a client until payment has been received. The electric company can turn off your electricity until you are caught up on your payments. But in medicine, a patient is treated without question, in good faith they (and/or their insurance) will pay for the service later.

    The system may never be perfect as a whole, but the billing office does receive the same types of questions frequently that have little to do with the individual bill or service itself, but more of a lack of understanding of the process. To help clarify some of those things, we'll discuss them below.
    Often there are questions about how long to expect before a bill, also known as a statement, should arrive. One would think it would be as easy as ringing up your groceries at the store. That would certainly simplify the process. But, between private insurances and Medicare/Medicaid there is a lot more to it than that. Everything that happens, from the time you arrive to the amount of time the provider is with you, to the size of the IV needle that is used must be documented. Providers may not always have the time to complete their documentation every day. The top priority is always taking care of the patient, so often the paperwork side of the care provided takes a back burner. When they do complete their records, then that visit can move to the next step; coding. Every service provided has to have a code attached to it. If that code is deemed not applicable to your situation by your insurance company, they will not pay for the service. There are over 11,000 codes; 24 of them could be used to list a Chest X-ray. If insurance doesn't agree with the code that was chosen to classify your X-ray, they may agree with one of the other 23. You can see how this can become confusing and time consuming real quick, so BSMC works with a billing and coding team that takes care of this process for us. After everything is coded appropriately, then the account is submitted to your insurance. Your insurance company reviews the chart and your coverage, then decides what will be paid. Then we receive payment from your insurance, also known as an adjustment. Your Explanation of Benefits can help you understand what payment was made and why. After that adjustment is received and applied to your account, then the remainder of the bill is sent to you. Provided we have the correct mailing address on file for you. The whole process can easily take two to three months.

    After you receive your bill, you may immediately wonder where to find a coupon to help reduce that cost. While it would be nice to have such a luxury, there is an option to help save money! It's called the prompt pay discount. If you can pay your bill in full within 30 days of receiving the statement, you can receive a discount! There is also a charity care sliding scale fee service that is available to you for those who may need extra assistance. Further information on that program can be found on our website at www.bsmc.org/business-financial.

    You might also wonder why you receive a bill from Billings Clinic for lab work you had collected here in Big Sandy. While the lab here is capable of running a large variety of tests, they do not have all of the equipment necessary to complete every test ever ordered. The ones that the BSMC lab is not capable of completing are sent to Billings Clinic to be completed. Anything they complete for you is billed through them. So you may have a bill from BSMC for your visit with the provider and a portion of your lab work, and then another one from Billings Clinic for the lab tests they completed.
    You are always welcome to call up to the facility, explore the website, or come in and visit with Paula or Brittany regarding your bill. It is certainly a daunting process on our end, as well as yours. The staff are here to help, offer clarity, and continue to make progress towards a streamlined billing process.

    To Be A Nurse

    To Be A Nurse May 5, 2024

    Nurse's Week May 6-12

    Some people envision white dresses and nurses hats,
    That classic image of nurses in the past.
    Others think about the mean lady who gives shots,
    The one who called you a little snot.
    Then there's the nurse that was an angel to you,
    The one that brought you comfort during that thing you went through.

    There are nurses of all kinds, they serve in many different ways,
    From at the bedside to public health, hospitals, clinics, and even as teachers,
    This week we give back to them, offering uncommon praise,
    The recognition they don't always get, but certainly deserve.

    There are eight wonderful nurses at BSMC,
    Today we tip our hats to them and say thank you for all you do,
    Steph, Sam, Sarah, Amanda, Randy, Katie, Jessica, and Ashley,
    This place couldn't function without you.

    Thank you for working the long days and the long nights,
    Thank you for missing time with your family,
    Just so you can care for the community.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge, your wisdom, and your heart,
    For it is those things that set nurses apart,
    Your compassion, patience, and sense of humor too,
    All of these things are the nursing glue.

    To be a nurse is so much more than a job,
    It is an honor, a blessing, and a calling in this life,
    Even when it makes your heart hurt and your feet throb,
    Your heart of gold prevents any strife.

    This week we celebrate you, nurses of BSMC
    For all you do for the folks in this community.
    Keep up the good work, keep on, keepin' on,
    And always remember, you're appreciated today and beyond.

    Why You Should Take Advantage of This Service

    Why you should take advantage of this service at BSMC April 10, 2024

    By: Jessica Ophus

    Last year, Big Sandy Medical Center began offering a service called Patient Directed Testing. This is an opportunity for you as the patient, to choose which labs you'd like to have collected without needing a provider's order to do so. For example, let's say one of your longest friends just learned he has prostate cancer and it makes you think long and hard about those suggested lab tests that you should be getting done regularly. After years of avoidance, you finally call to get in with your regular doctor and they are scheduling 6 months out (popular provider!). You don't want to see someone else, but you also don't want to wait for 6 months to get caught up on your lab work. So instead, you come to Big Sandy Medical Center, register at the lab, and order the tests you'd like completed right now. The Lab will calculate your total cost, you will pay up front, then get your blood drawn and the tests will be completed. In just a few days your results will be mailed to you, or accessible on your patient portal, or they can even be sent straight to your provider so they are there waiting by the time your appointment comes around. Will you still need to keep your regular visits with your provider? Yes, that would be recommended. However, you can now walk into those visits empowered with information and even bring yourself some peace of mind in the meantime.

    Maybe you have started a new nutrition plan and would like to watch your cholesterol or A1c every few months to see if there is improvement. Or you suffer from frequent UTIs and want to confirm your symptoms before starting another round of antibiotics. Do you need a Covid-19 PCR test for travel? You can walk in and get one without needing a doctor's visit! You certainly have a lot of options through patient directed testing and each of them allows you to save money, time, and be more involved with your own wellness.

    Here is one of the best parts, since you pay up front, you pay less. The whole process is completed between you and the lab staff. They register you; they do the billing; they do the lab draw and complete the tests. It is a "one-stop-shop" so to speak. The simplicity of not having alternative staff that register, accept payment, bill your insurance company, wait for their payment, then bill you for the remainder, takes a lot of man hours out of the process. That means the service can be delivered for less! If you do have insurance, you can receive a receipt to submit towards your deductible, so it is a win-win!

    It is important to understand that your insurance WILL NOT be billed for this service. If you want these lab tests to go through your insurance company they must be ordered by a provider. But depending on your insurance coverage, you might save money by not having them ran through your insurance. For example, a patient was recently in to have some blood work done. His fee for the day, after having some of his routine annual labs completed (CMP, CBC, Lipid Panel, Hgb A1c, and Vitamin D) came to a total of $235.00. Had he run that same set of tests through his insurance company, they would have been $776.00! As he had not met his deductible yet, the entirety of the cost would have been out of pocket for him. That is quite a savings and he can still submit that towards his deductible for the year.
    The lab tests that are available to you through Patient Directed Testing include blood counts, cholesterol, thyroid tests, iron tests, diabetic screening, prostate screening, Urine drug tests and urinalysis, as well as the Covid-19 PCR. A more detailed list of the available tests can be found on the Medical Center Website at www.bsmc.org/lab. You will also find access to the form that needs completed prior to your blood draw. Having it completed prior to your arrival makes your visit that much faster but if technology is not your thing, it can be filled out upon your arrival to the facility.

    The folks in the lab look forward to helping you reach your wellness goals in 2024. Come on in any time during business hours and get your lab work completed! Don't forget to celebrate our great Lab employees, Dave and Mike, this week April 14-20 is National Lab Week!

    BSMC conducting a 2024 Community Health Needs Assessment

    BSMC conducting a 2024 Community Health Needs Assessment Jan 17, 2024

    By: Jessica Ophus

    As a non-profit organization, the IRS requires Big Sandy Medical Center to conduct a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) every three years. The CHNA is an opportunity for the members of the community to express their opinions about what is needed in the area, not just to help support their health, but to support the well-being of the community as a whole as well. You can view some of the current assessments from around the state at the Montana Healthcare Foundation's website. The last time this was performed, residents of the community received a survey in their mail. Just over 100 responses were received.

    Ron Wiens, CEO, of the facility, has decided to take a different approach for this year's assessment. He will be hosting various meetings with specific populations in the community. On Jan 11, he hosted a meeting during lunch at the Senior Center, for the Seniors in our community. In that conversation, he learned that the group felt the three biggest factors contributing to a healthy community are having a quality education system, good health care services, and low crime/safe neighborhoods. Other areas addressed are risky behaviors, health related problems, and other opinions about life in the community. If you missed the lunch today, there are still surveys at the Senior Center so you can share your input.

    Coming up on January 23, at 4 pm, at the Church of God, he will be hosting a conversation with parents/guardians of school age children. Pre-school childcare will be available during this meeting if you need it. He also intends to have a survey distributed to high school students. If you don't fall into any of those categories, there will also be surveys available for you to fill out at The Grocery Store, Pep's, The Mint, and The Bakery. If you return your completed survey to any of those businesses you will receive $5 off your purchase, as incentive for taking the time to share your opinion.

    Ron is hoping to have between 100-150 responses by February 14. He will then be tasked with the duty of compiling the data, and finding three priorities the Medical Center can help to improve in the great community of Big Sandy. After those three have been identified, he must create an action plan and submit that to the Board of Directors for approval before June 30, 2024.

    This is an opportunity for you to share your thoughts, opinions, and requests here in Big Sandy. Please, join a focus group, or stop at any of the above-mentioned businesses to fill out a survey so your voice can be heard. Stay tuned for more information as results continue to come in.

    BSMC Looks Forward to 2024

    BSMC looks forward to 2024 Jan 3, 2024

    By: Jessica Ophus

    2023 brought a lot of progress to the goals at BSMC. The end of the calendar year will not end our production though. 2024 will bring a continued effort to get the new building completed and begin clinic operations there, final set up of the new generator, a dining room expansion, removing the carpet from the walls of the nursing home wing, continued efforts to improve the billing process, continued improvement of our nursing care, continued development of our leadership team, more community education, and so much more.

    The kitchen addition was completed and has been running smoothly. Kitchen staff are grateful for the added space and organization. North Western Energy installed the 2 inch gas line that is necessary to fuel the new generator. As soon as the Loch electric can get it hooked up we'll begin testing the functionality and make sure all is working appropriately. It can then be put into operation when the need arises. So far, this mild winter weather has certainly helped with the productivity in all the projects and updates around the facility.

    The new clinic building is coming along nicely. The current hold up is an electrical panel that is making a VERY slow journey to Big Sandy, as has been the case with most electrical components lately. The facility has began to purchase furniture and equipment that will be necessary for operations at the clinic and adds to that shopping list frequently. When the day comes that operations do finally move over to the new building, you will still be greeted with the same quality care you experience now. You'll see the same clinic staff team you work with now. Abbey, Suzy, and Morgan will be able to run some blood tests, rapid tests for Strep, influenza, RSV, and Covid. Cheyenne, the new Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, will also see her clients there. She is seeing clients now, if you would like to work on your mental health in the new year, please call 406.378.2189 to schedule with her.

    When you come for routine outpatient procedures, like catheter changes, or wound care, then you'd come straight to the hospital instead to see one of the nurses there. Physical therapy will remain at the blue building. And of course, if you need Emergency Care, you'll still go to the Emergency Room Entrance like you do right now. All the staff with help guide you to the right places when the time comes.

    After the clinic has moved out, we'll start construction on the current clinic rooms to prepare for the installation of the CT machine. In the meantime, planning is well under way to expand the dining room. If you've been to visit lately, or even watch the activities on the Faebook page, you've seen how crowded it gets when everyone is at a meal or activity. Even more so if their family is in for a visit for the day. One wall will be removed and a doorway expanded as well to help mitigate that problem. The carpet on the bottom of the wall will be removed and replaced with a durable tile surface that is cleanable and can withstand the inevitable wheelchair scuffs and dings. The Maintenance Department is also receiving quotes for new windows, air conditioner units, and a call light system. The 'nursing home' wing of the facility was added in 1985, there has been very few updates to the space in the last 40 years, these are all necessary and welcome changes.

    Staff development continues in the New Year as well. All employees will have their BLS (CPR) training renewed and nurses will be completing their ACLS, PALS, and TNCC (these certificates prepare staff for life-threatening situations) by April. They are also implementing a NICHE (Nurses Improving Care for Healthcare Elders) care model to improve fall rates and overall care provided to our elder population.

    The December Board meeting brought a favorable audit report and the approval to rent the bench outside of the bank as well as a billboard 6 miles north of Box Elder. Be on the lookout for those soon. The new Board officers will be elected after the first of the year. To gain more insight on the happenings at the Board Meetings, you can read the meeting minutes on the website. The website got a full revamp this summer, so if you haven't visited it recently, check it out at www.bsmc.org. There you will also find a list of the labs that can be completed in our facility without a doctors order. If you're ready to take control of your health and wellness in the new year, we'd love to help you. Labs, diabetic education, and annual wellness exams are all provided here at Big Sandy Medical Center. Call 406.378.2189 for more information or to scheduled your visit anytime. Thank you for allowing us to serve you in 2023, we look forward to all the growth and changes coming in 2024 and are grateful that you'l be along for the ride.

    Community Letter of Thanks

    Big Sandy Community Amazingly Generous Jan 3, 2024

    By: Ron Wiens, CEO, BSMC

    Having worked in Big Sandy for over a year now, one thing that continually amazes me is the generosity of the people who call this town home. And by generosity, I'm not just talking about money, but of time. The members of the Rotary Club give countless hours of service to this community so we can have Christmas lights to enjoy downtown and a park in the mountains to recreate, and most recently, an ice-skating rink for kids to play. The hospital Guild volunteers somehow pull together a huge rummage sale every year. Roberta Edwards volunteers countless hours inside the medical center helping to entertain the folks among other things. Even the kids volunteer through their 4H clubs, church groups, and other extra circulars. The list goes on of service organizations and individual people who give of their time to make Big Sandy a great place to live.

    And when it comes to giving financially, Big Sandy must be one of the most generous communities in Montana. When a community member is seriously injured or sick, a fundraiser is organized and thousands of dollars are raised to help offset the unexpected medical and living costs.

    From my perspective as the CEO of Big Sandy Medical Center, we have been the blessed recipient of this generosity in many ways during the past year starting in January 2023 with a donation of land (valued at $45,000) from the Peterson family. This is the site of our new clinic building. In April, the Big Sandy Medical Services Foundation gave the hospital $25,900 towards the kitchen remodel project. Their gift was made possible by the many community members who respond to the Foundation's annual giving letter with a donation.

    In July, the hospital was the humble recipient of a $58,000 gift from Louis Beirwagen, which has been designated for updating of patient rooms. And most recently the hospital received two generous donations; one of $50,000 from the estate of Dora Mahood, half going towards the clinic project and half going to the CT project, and a gift from Lyle McKeever of $10,000 to go toward the clinic project. We have also been gifted grant money from Lippard-Clawiter and the Tordick Foundation to assist with the dining room expansion. Wow!

    This facility would not be able to remain independent without your support. Whether through time, monetary donations, patronage, or even just word of mouth advertising. As we enter a new year, I want to thank all of you who have supported Big Sandy Medical Center in the past and ask for your support again this year. I wish all of you a very happy and prosperous new year.

    Christmas Festivities at BSMC

    Christmas Festivities at BSMC December 13, 2023

    By: Jessica Ophus

    While there may not be much for snow outside, it sure is beginning to look a lot like Christmas over at BSMC. The trees are trimmed, the halls are decorated and the festivities have started. A whole lot of celebration is packed into the month between the Thanksgiving holiday and the Christmas holiday. Last week Mary joined us from Havre to play some beautiful Christmas music on the Harp. Next week, the Big Sandy Rotary will be carolling inside the facility and the BSHS Choir will be performing a few tunes as well. Karen R. has been stopping in on Fridays to lead bell ringing carols. If you keep an eye out, you just might see a BSMC Resident performance!
    We have plans to bake gingerbread cookies, make fudge, and Rosettes. Staff and residents alike showed off their Christmas jammies on Monday and for the Grinches in the facility, we have a Grinch Party slated for the 14th. No Christmas celebration is complete without a Christmas sweater day-Dec 20- and we'll have a Christmas Vacation up on the big screen one afternoon too. On December 22, we will have a Christmas Party for the folks who live here. The Medical Guild purchases gifts for the residents with the help of facility staff. Other community members are welcome to offer gifts, whether physical items, time, or their musical talents as well. We have a Reindeer hunt planned and one birthday party on the calendar for this month too. It will certainly be a month of celebration, goodies, and more memories!
    All of the happenings are posted on the Big Sandy Medical Center Facebook page. The brains and decorative eye behind most of the fun belong to Lisa Sipler, the Activities Director. She works hard to make the facility feel like home and keep everyone entertained. Lisa is always looking for volunteers to assist with activities and join in on the fun. If you have any questions or want to be a part of the fun, please reach out to her.
    Also be sure to check out the Big Sandy Medical Center. It has gotten an overhaul in the last year and is much more robust than in the past. On the website you'll find job openings, project updates, Board Meeting minutes, billing assistance etc. And of course, keep an eye here in the Mountaineer for all the latest from BSMC. May you enjoy this holiday season and if you are in need of any medical care, give us a call to get back to health as soon as possible.

    BSMC Adds Outpatient Mental Health Services

    BSMC Adds Outpatient Mental Health Services Dec 6, 2023

    By Ron Wiens

    Big Sandy Medical Center is excited to announce the addition of a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) to its medical staff. Cheyenne Feltz, PNP, a resident of Fort Benton, will be available at Big Sandy Medical Center two days a week starting in December. She will serve persons facing challenges with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
    "Mental health practitioners are far and few between in Montana, and to have someone of Cheyenne's caliber practicing in Big Sandy is amazing." says Ron Wiens, CEO of the hospital. Cheyenne's experience and clinical training has focused primarily on children, adolescents and young adults, yet she can see older adults as well.
    A Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP), also known as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) primarily provides diagnostic and treatment services including the prescribing of medications. The PNP can also provide on-going therapy services as needed. If you or someone you love is in need of these services, please call the Big Sandy Clinic at 378-2189 to make a confidential appointment with Cheyenne.

    BSMC Annual Meeting Tomorrow Nov 30

    BSMC Annual Meeting Tomorrow Nov 30 Nov 29, 2023

    By Jessica Ophus

    Tomorrow, November 30th, is the big day! At 5:30 pm, the BSMC Board of Directors, the CEO, and the community with gather at the Senior Center for the 59th Annual Meeting. This meeting is a bit different than the regular monthly Board Meetings. Most organizations hold Annual Meetings, some out of transparency, some due to state requirement. At the Annual Meeting, elections take place, financial audits are reviewed, and the happenings in the business as well as the upcoming goals are discussed. On the BSMC Annual Meeting Agenda are the following items: CEO Report, Presentation of the Annual Financial Audit, By-Laws Committee and the Nominating Committee Report, Appointments to each committee for the next year, the election of one Board Member for a 3-year seat, and Public Comment. Coffee and snacks will be provided during the meeting for those who attend.
    Financial Audits have a bit of a negative reputation, but do offer value for any organization. Ron Wiens, the current CEO at BSMC worked as a Chief Financial Officer before coming to Big Sand, he explains the process, "The Board, as part of its fiduciary duty, annually engages an independent CPA firm to conduct an audit of the hospital's fiscal year financial statements. This review will help determine if they are accurate, complete and in compliance with generally accepted accounting principles. The CPA firm provides an opinion on the hospital financial statements to the Board of Directors at the Annual Meeting of Big Sandy Medical Center. An unqualified (clean) opinion indicates the hospital's financial statements are fairly stated as presented. Big Sandy Medical Center has continuously earned an unqualified opinion."
    In the CEO Report, Ron will give an overview of the last fiscal year's accomplishments and take a look forward at the goals for the upcoming year. The By-Laws Committee would discuss any changes being recommended to the By-Laws, there will be none at the meeting this year. The nominating committee will present the three candidates for the election. From there, in-person ballots will be dispersed to those in attendance who meet the voting eligibility requirements. Voting will take place and ballots will be returned to the Secretary (Anna Bold). After all votes are collected, the In-Person Ballots and Absentee Ballots will be tallied and then shared with those in attendance.
    After the announcement of the newest Board Member, public comment is opened. This is an opportunity for community members to voice their thoughts, concerns, and praises of Big Sandy Medical Center. Comments are welcome during this time, however it is not common practice for a Board to act on comments made during this Annual Meeting. They are recorded in the minutes, and if they need further follow up, will be addressed as an agenda item at a later date. This is a great opportunity to welcome a new Board Member, respectfully bring any concerns to attention, and offer support for the Board of Directors as they embark on another year of working to keep this community built facility, community owned.
    A final reminder, you can get an Absentee Ballot at the BSMC Clinic if you cannot attend the meeting to vote. All Absentee Ballots must be returned by 4:00 pm on November 30th to be counted in the vote during the Annual Meeting. We hope to see you there.

    Board Candidates

    Board Candidates Nov 22, 2023

    For three weeks you've been hearing about the role of the Board of Directors and the process for the upcoming election. It is finally time to meet the candidates. Each candidate offered a few minutes of their time to share their thoughts, you'll see them below. Voting will take place November 30 at the Annual Board meeting in the Big Sandy Senior Center at 5:30 pm. If you cannot attend the meeting in person, you are able to get an Absentee Ballot now at the Business Office of the Big Sandy Medical Center any time between 8 am-5 pm. To be tabulated, ballots must be returned by 4:30 pm on November 30th; there is a secured drop box just outside of the business office to place sealed ballots upon return.
    Dr. Karen Baumann
    Why do you want to be on the BSMC board?
    To make a difference in the lives of our community members and be available to listen and understand their concerns about their medical needs.
    As an older adult, I feel that we are not heard in regard to our medical care and another pill is added without really getting to the root of the issue. We want to be listened to and be connected.
    I am a recently retired Registered Nurse with thirty years of experience. I actually started in the medical field right out of high school in1974 as a Nursing Assistant (which I feel is one of the most difficult jobs in the medical field). I have a Doctorate in Nursing as well as a Masters in Health Administration and a Masters in Nursing. I have worked from the bedside to computer implementation for a hospital to the ivory towers of administration.
    I know the language and know what questions to ask and where to focus on issues brought before the board.
    Every person in our community has a right to know what the medical center is doing for its future sustainability. BSMC has taken many strides to make our hospital stand out by acquiring a CT scanner and expanding the medical clinic. I would like to be part of this transformation.
    What do you hope to accomplish during your three-year term?
    I would like to take the information gathered to understand the current goals of the hospital and how I can be instrumental as a "medical person" as well as a community member to ensure the current and long-term goals are met.
    How do you plan to understand and work with the ~60-member staff?
    As an RN for as long as I have been, I have worked with hundreds of employees at many different levels. The key is honesty, communication, and understanding.
    What issues do you currently see that need to be addressed at BSMC?
    I think one of the major issues is making sure that our patients that are being sent out to other places get the information back to their primary providers here and have a continuity of care plan in place. That means getting the reports back, reviewing, checking in with the patient, are there follow up labs? If the patient was in the hospital are there any treatments that need to be continued?
    Also a community member mentioned that it would be nice to have an ADA door getting into the Nursing home part of the facility. It is difficult to maneuver a wheelchair and try to keep the door open to get through without getting hurt.
    What is your occupation?
    I am a retired RN and now working at FE Miley Elementary as a Paraprofessional.
    Anything else you'd like to share?
    Not at this time.

    Ken Denning
    Why do you want to be on the BSMC Board?
    "Well, I think there is a lot of place for improvement in community relations. We need to get people coming back to Big Sandy for their medical care. The more people we can get to come here, the more stable the future of the facility will be."
    What do you hope to accomplish during your three year term?
    "I hope we can get people chose to obtain care here again. I want to strengthen the hospital's relationship with the community, that is important to me."
    How do you plan to understand and work with the ~60 member staff?
    "Talk to people and see if I can get some feedback that way. I went to one of the meetings a while back and it seemed that a lot of employees came to the board meeting. It would be good to get to know the leadership people that way."
    What issues do you currently see that need to be addressed at BSMC?
    "The new building will be a big bonus to the community, specialists will be a big boost to the hospital here. The more things like that we can get coming here, so people don't have to drive, will build the strength of the hospital."
    What is your occupation?
    Self-employed Local Contractor/Carpenter
    Anything else you'd like to share?
    "I think it is important to be involved in the community, get a different opinion on things. Ever since I got out of college, I worked as an architect and have been involved. Getting a different view point helps get people thinking of things they maybe haven't thought of."

    Harvey Keller
    Why do you want to be on the BSMC Board?
    "I've been on the Board a number of years, as some people know. To me it's a way I can give back to the community, since the community has given so much to me and my family. The slogan years ago was, "Built by the community, for the community". That is how I have been trying to base my decisions on the Board; keep it locally oriented, town oriented, and community oriented."
    What do you hope to accomplish during your three-year term?
    "Number one, I would like to see the mobile clinic up and going. Number two, I'd like to see the remodel of the current clinic complete for the CT Machine. The kitchen remodel is now complete. Since we've started it all, it would be nice to finish it. And of course, keep patient care number one."
    How do you plan to understand and work with the ~60 member staff?
    "Well, I was always open to listen to their problems and willing to talk with them about coming up with solutions with those problems. That's what I hope to continue."
    What issues do you currently see that need to be addressed at BSMC?
    "My biggest fear is that eventually we lose our local governing Board and ownership. If that happens, so be it. I've talked to other hospitals that have been taken over by larger facilities, it seems to be 60% against, 40% for, but my biggest fear is that they would cut local employees."
    What is your occupation?
    Farming/ Ranching and Grandpa
    Anything else you'd like to share?
    "I started on the Board over 30 years ago, but at that time the by-laws stated you could only serve two consecutive terms. They were later revised due to a lack of interest. I have been on the Board this time since 2011. It's been an honor and privilege to serve on the Board for that many years. The Board members have always been great to work with. We've always tried to keep the hospital under local management and keep our employees without having to make too many changes. We want to offer the community and outlying area the best patient care possible, from the ER to end of life."

    Can I vote at the BSMC Annual Meeting?

    Can I vote at the BSMC Annual Meeting? Nov 15, 2023

    By Jessica Ophus

    We're only three weeks away from the Big Sandy Medical Center's Annual Board Meeting. This will be the 59th Annual Meeting to be held for the facility. Big Sandy Medical Center was originally built in 1965 with a clinic, ER and hospital. The nursing home addition was erected in 1985. In 2019, the Nursing Home status was terminated and the facility became a full Critical Access Hospital. The Board has been there for it all. In reviewing events of the recent years, finding people interested in volunteering their time and knowledge to BSMC has been difficult. Ballots have had only one name to vote for, and that person was usually sought out and asked to sit on the board instead of coming forth on their own volition. This year looks different though. Two people requested their name be listed on the ballot, and the current Board Member, Harvey Keller, whose term is up, has opted to run again. A true election will be taking place at the Annual Meeting on November 30th. You'll hear more about the candidates, Dr. Karen Baumann, Ken Denning, and Harvey Keller, in a future article.
    Did you know that you do not have to be a Board Member or a BSMC employee to place your vote for the candidates? The only requirements for voting are that you be a resident of Montana, and either a resident of Chouteau County or a taxpayer of the Chouteau County Hospital District II. If you're unsure of which hospital district you are in, that information can be found on your property taxes.
    If you cannot be present at the Annual Board Meeting, but would still like to vote, you can pick up an absentee ballot. They are available in the Big Sandy Medical Center Business Office any time between 8 am and 5 pm, M-F. You will be asked to provide some information validating your residency and then given a blank ballot and envelope to cast your vote. All ballots must be received by 4:00 pm on November 30th to ensure they get counted.
    Of course, if you can make it to the annual meeting, you will be given an opportunity to vote there, as well as gain other insights about the happenings at the Big Sandy Medical Center. The public is welcome and coffee and snacks will be available. You don't have to wait for the Annual Meeting every fall to be privy to the happenings, the regular Board Meetings are usually held on the third Thursday of the month and open to the public. November 16, at 5:30 pm in the BSMC conference room is the next regular meeting. Be sure to keep watching for more information in the coming weeks regarding the election process, candidates, and an update on the projects happening around the facility!

    What does the Board do for BSMC?

    What does the Board do for BSMC? Nov 8, 2023

    By Jessica Ophus

    The Annual Board Meeting is slated for November 30, 2023 at 5:30 pm, at the Senior Center. While there is a Board meeting every month, the annual meeting functions a little differently. In this meeting, new members are elected, by-laws and policies are reviewed and the financial audit is explored. The Board of Directors is also responsible, in conjunction with the facility staff, for developing plans to accomplish the organization's mission: "To provide quality patient care in an innovative and professional manner." The Board has the final say on all financial decisions made in the facility, approves the annual budget, the CEO wage, and ensures that facility funds cover facility expenses etc.
    The Board has had a say in the hiring of Ron Wiens, the current CEO, they have been involved in all of the projects happening at the facility the last few years, including the transition to a Critical Access Hospital in 2019, the new flooring and fire suppression system, the new generator, the purchasing of the CT machine, the kitchen addition, the Rural Health Clinic building and upcoming operation, and the projected expansion of the dining room.
    This is a volunteer role, requiring about 5-6 hours of time a month, but a vital role to the success of any hospital. Its not just vital to the facility's success, but since BSMC is a non-profit organization, that places the legal responsibility for the welfare and actions of BSMC on the Board.
    As is defined on the Montana Non-profit Association website, the duties of a Board Member of any non-profit organization are as follows:
    Duty of care-a director of a nonprofit organization shall discharge all his/her duties as a director, including those performed as a committee member:
    In good faith;
    With the care that an ordinarily prudent person in a similar position would exercise under similar circumstances; and
    In a manner the director reasonably believes to be in the best interests of the organization.
    The duty of care entails a duty of reasonable inquiry. Each director is obligated to ask questions and demand information to allow him/her to have sufficient information and understanding to make decisions he/she reasonably believes are in the non-profit's best interests. This duty means that the director must make time to attend meetings, and come prepared to participate.
    Duty of loyalty-Directors are obligated to exercise an undivided and unselfish loyalty to the organization they serve. Directors must exercise their obligations and powers in the best interests of the organization and its charitable mission, not in their own interests or in the interests of another person or entity (even if charitable in nature). To assure that directors are operating within the scope of the duty of loyalty they are required to complete conflict of interest disclosures annually and acknowledge any conflict that may arise during the year.
    Duty of obedience-Directors are obligated to further the mission of the organization they serve; to be faithful to its purposes and goals as defined by the articles of incorporation and by-laws; to act in conformity with all state, federal and local laws; and to obey board-approved organizational policies.
    To fulfil these duties, regular meetings are held one evening a month and with the addition of one annual meeting a year. There are occasionally special meetings or retreats to attend as well. Regular monthly meetings and the Annual meetings are open to the public, and public comment is always an agenda item. Join the next regular meeting on November 16, 2023 at 5:30 p m in the conference room, and be sure to attend and cast your vote on November 30, 2023 at the Senior Center for the Annual Meeting.

    Newly Appointed Board of Director

    Newly Appointed Board of Director Nov 1, 2023

    By Jessica Ophus

    In the Spring of 2023, a spot on the Big Sandy Medical Center's Board of Directors became vacant. After careful review of the Board By-laws, the Board learned they must appoint a candidate to that position until the term is completed. Candidates that were interested in being on the BSMC Board were allowed to express their interest through October 16, 2023. At that time, the nominating committee stopped accepting nominations and the Board chose the candidate to be appointed.
    At the most recent Board Meeting, held October 16, 2023, Amber Terry was appointed to the vacant seat and will serve a one-year term before being up for re-election. Welcome to the Board of Directors Amber, thank you for your time and service to BSMC!
    The other candidates who had expressed interest in being on the Board, will run for a three year term. Elections will be held at the Annual Meeting on November 30, 2023. Big Sandy is a community owned hospital, so the community gets a say in who is on the Board. To be allowed to vote, one must be a resident of Montana and a tax payer of the Chouteau County Hospital District #2. You may either vote in person at the meeting, or an absentee ballot will be available at the Big Sandy Medical Center Business office.
    The current Board of Directors includes, Harvey Keller, Bob Nelson, Anna Bold, Ann Quinn, and now Amber Terry. Harvey's seat is up for re-election. He has expressed interest in remaining on the Board, and will run against Big Sandy locals, Ken Denning and Dr. Karen Baumann. In the coming weeks, more information about each candidate will be shared so you, the community, can make an informed decision about your vote.
    Why does your vote mean so much for this community? The Board of Directors guides the operations of the facility. Staying independently owned has been a priority of the medical center in the past and it is becoming more and more of a rarity in the Healthcare industry. Logan Health now owns/partners with facilities in 16 locations across Montana. Benefis has several locations in Great Falls, but also Choteau and Fort Benton too. Intermountain Health owns St. Vincent's in Billings, has locations in Miles City and Butte, and has plans to open a facility in Bozeman. Other healthcare systems like Sanford, Avera, and Banner Health hospitals continue to grow their reach as well. The leadership provided has always been what keeps the doors of our facility open and now will be the guiding force behind whether the facility remains independently owned and community centered.
    Stay tuned for more in this five part series about the Board of Directors, the candidates for election, and the upcoming Annual Meeting.

    Cold and Flu Season is here

    Cold and Flu Season- September 20, 2023

    By: Jessica Ophus

    The dreaded cold and flu season is upon us! When someone says they have a cold or the flu, what is actually happening in their body? For most people, the "common cold" is a viral infection of the upper respiratory system. In other words, a stuffy nose, head pressure, sore throat, and a cough. There usually is no fever or chills, and maybe just slight body aches. In most cases, this will pass in 5-10 days and over the counter treatments will help to ease symptoms. The "flu," also known as Influenza, does usually bring fever and chills, body aches, fatigue or tiredness, and a cough with some chest discomfort. Influenza can be dangerous in vulnerable populations like small children, the elderly, and immunocompromised folks, but again, most symptoms can be managed with over the counter medications and lots of rest.

    Both of these illnesses are caused by viruses. That means antibiotics do not work to cure the problem, as antibiotics kill bacteria not viruses. The good part about these types of viruses is that they cannot survive in the body for long. Usually, within 5 days your symptoms peak and by 10-14 days you're back to your normal self. Two weeks may feel like a long time when you're not feeling well, but it's only 0.04% of the year. In comparison the average American spends 29% of their year on a screen.

    The other "flu "that is often spread this time of year is a stomach bug. Again, viral but usually lasts 24-48 hours. This is different than influenza, although they are often both called "the flu." Any time nausea/vomiting and diarrhea are involved staying hydrated is the most important thing you can do. Besides water and sports drinks, popsicles, jello, and broth are other great ways to get those fluids in.

    There are a few easy ways to help avoid bringing home a virus. The number one way to avoid illness and infection of any kind is to wash your hands! Bacteria, viruses, parasites, dirt, and even fecal matter can stay on your hands for hours or days if you're not washing them properly. Soap, water, and friction are the three ingredients needed for successful hand washing. Getting plenty of rest, drinking plenty of water, and maintaining a balanced diet can also help prevent illness. When your body has the fuel it needs, it's better able to protect itself. Finally, the flu shot can help prevent or lessen the symptoms of influenza.

    The flu shot will be available at Big Sandy Pharmacy this year beginning on October 1, 2023. Big Sandy Medical Center will not carry the flu vaccine this fall. Multiple research avenues are used to find the best estimates of the version of Influenza virus that will circulate during flu season every year. From global studies, to virus genetics, to antigen studies, data is gathered all year long. The chosen varieties are then manufactured into the vaccine. While it is never 100% effective at preventing illnesses, it may still be helpful.

    When should you come to the clinic for a cold or the flu? When your over the counter treatments are not relieving your symptoms. Fever reducers such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Motrin (Ibuprofen), cough syrup, Mucinex, nasal spray etc., paired with lots of rest and fluids should help to improve the discomforts. If your symptoms have persisted past two weeks or you are unable to drink fluids, or your fever cannot be managed with medications, then it is time to get an appointment at the Big Sandy Clinic. You should head straight to the Emergency Department if you are having difficulty breathing, increasing chest pain, or have other concerns.

    While you are ill you should stay home and avoid sharing these germs with others. If you're not feeling well, please don't go to the grocery store, or hang out down town, or attend a local sports game. Keep your germs to yourself! You'll also want to be sure to thoroughly clean your cup, straw and under the seal around the lid. Many germs live in the nooks and crannies of those areas and even a dishwasher doesn't quite do it. Consider sanitizing your cell phone, door knobs, and computer keyboards as well.

    Stay well this season, but if you don't, the Big Sandy Medical Center is always here for you.

    *Note: this does not constitute as medical advice, diagnosis or prescribing. Discuss all treatments, even over the counter medication and herbal remedies, with your primary care provider*

    Medical Guild Rummage Sale

    Medical Guild Rummage Sale- September 13, 2023

    By: Jessica Ophus

    The Medical Guild is gearing up for the 55th annual rummage sale! The sale is the main fundraiser for the Guild every year, proving successful with last years sale topping $10,000. Guild funds are used to help purchase items for the Big Sandy Medical Center. They donated $20,000 for the kitchen remodel project, have purchased patio furniture, helped with paint and flooring to update the inside of the building, and supported countless other projects and needs. The community of Big Sandy has been so great in supporting the Guild, between donating rummage, volunteering to sort, set up, and work the sale, baking pies, and of course rummaging and indulging in a great slice of pie, it's no wonder the event is always so successful.
    The annual planning luncheon was held on August 28, with about 20 volunteers in attendance.

    This year's sale will be October 5th and 6th. This will be before school spirit week and the Chili feed so be sure to send the kiddos down to get all their spirit week outfit components! Of course you'll want to come see what treasures you can find as well. AND get pie. We cannot forget about the pie.
    It is said that the women go to shop and the men go for pie, but that isn't always the case. Over the 50+ years, some pies have come to be quite popular. Linda Vielleux's apple pie for example is requested by name often. People also enjoy trying different types of pie. Last year an avocado pie was available and a first time fare for many folks in attendance. Pie will be dished up at $4 a slice with a cup of coffee to enjoy as well.

    There are currently about 40 workers needed to pull off this event. The Medical Guild is such a great place to volunteer your time, give back to the community, and spend time with other community members. Lisa Sipler has been involved in the Guild over about seven years now and states she stays involved because, "having that money available to donate to things that improve life for the folks is important, and it is tradition." Helpers are always needed the week of the sale. Those involved in the past report a 40+ hour week preparing and selling. Giving a bit of your time at the sale to serve pie, box up goodies, or even sort rummage before the sale would be appreciated.

    Community businesses and individuals also donate items for the raffle. Raffle tickets will be available at the store, senior center, and the bank. The bank is also where you'll be able to view all of the items that were donated for raffle prizes. To donate an item, reach out to Laci Labuda or drop it at the bank before October 2, 2023.

    Donors can begin dropping their rummage off on Monday, Oct 2 at the Jerry Martin Memorial Hall. All donations must be received by Oct 3rd by 1 pm so items can be sorted and prepared for sale day. Shoppers can find those early bird treasures starting Thursday, October 5, from 8 am - 7 pm and shop the Box Sale Friday Oct 6, from 9 am -3 pm. The raffle winners will be announced at 3 pm on Friday.

    Thank you for continuing to support the Big Sandy Medical Guild. See you at the Rummage Sale!

    Environmental Services Week

    Environmental Services Week

    By: Jessica Ophus

    September 10-16 is Environmental Services Week. While Environmental Services (EVS) may sound like a part of the EPA, it is blanket term used to include a facilities housekeepers, maintenance, and laundry departments. EVS is the unsung hero of any building, but especially important in a hospital setting.

    EVS at Big Sandy Medical Center is responsible for cleaning and surface disinfection, waste management, laundry, pest control, safety and security, maintaining the flooring and fixtures, grounds management, including mowing the lawn and snow/ice removal, and infection prevention. Each item listed is vital to a clean, healthy, and safe environment for the patients, employees, and visitors alike.

    Chris O'Dell took over as the Facility Manager last spring; EVS is his domain at Big Sandy Medical Center. His staff includes Leroy Richardson, Jeff Richter, and newly hired, Wyatt Phillips in Maintenance and Housekeeping. These four gentleman do a great job working to make sure the building is not just clean, but also in good working order. With the kitchen addition, problems with the HVAC system, issues with the fire suppression system, the commercial washer needing repair, and the other daily necessities in the building Chris and his team have certainly had their hands full.

    Manning the laundry for us is Nadine Poitra, and newly hired Weslie Taylor. Laundry is never ending; these gals have their work cut out for them. They are charged with washing, drying, folding, mending, and stain removing, for the ~20 people who reside in the building, the linen from the ER, Clinic, and Wellness Center, and the cleaning rags and mop pads from the kitchen and housekeeping. The facility has one regular washer that has a 13 pound capacity, and the commercial washer can do up to 33 pounds at a time. To put this into perspective, in June of 2022, 4,415 pounds of laundry was washed. That is at the very least, 134 loads of laundry in one month!

    Here's what Chris has to say about his team, "The Environmental Services Staff at the Big Sandy Medical Center are an integral part of the machine that keeps the Medical Center running. Their hard work and dedication to the Medical Center, helps to keep everyone safe from potential illnesses, through their cleaning and sanitization practices. Quick to help and attend to the hospital's needs after hours, they also come to work in a moment's notice whenever the need arises. This often requires a sacrifice of their personal time and time with family and friends. For this and all the things you do for the Medical Center, I thank you. Your hard work is noticed and appreciated."

    These folks sure don't get the recognition they deserve and one week of celebration is not enough. The next time you see Chris, LJ, Jeff, Wyatt, Nadine or Weslie out and about be sure to commend them for a job well done. When you notice, or rather don't notice, the dirt on the floor, or stains in someone's clothes, tip your hat to the folks responsible for keeping it that way.

    World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

    World Breastfeeding Awareness Week 2023 - August 2, 2023

    By Jessica Ophus

    Since 1992, World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) has been hosted August 1-August 7, by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. Themes range from women and work to community support to the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, to economy, science, education and human rights. This year's theme is Making a Difference for Working Parents; fitting after the PUMP Act was passed in late 2022. In short, the PUMP Act requires employers to allow break time for an employee to express breast milk for their nursing child, and a place at work, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public.

    While the initiative is a worldwide event, supporting the working parent who chooses to breastfeed is proven to be beneficial for mothers in the United States. The breastfeeding report card, data collected routinely by the CDC, shows that in the US 62.6% of babies are exclusively breastfeeding (baby is only offered breast milk) at time of discharge from the hospital and by 6 months that number drops to 24.9%. The US Dietary Guidelines for Americans, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the World Health Organization all recommend exclusive breastfeeding for about the first 6 months of life, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods for up to 2 years of age or longer. Through continuous research and investigation, one of the best indicators for success with exclusively breastfeeding is continued support beyond the hospital stay. Support from family members, friends, providers, employers, and society as a whole.

    Why is breastfeeding so strongly encouraged and supported by these organizations? The benefits for baby and mom both are profound. Breastfed babies are shown to have less chance of suffering from asthma, Type I diabetes, obesity, lower respiratory disease, ear infections, diarrhea/vomiting, Necrotizing Enterocolitis, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). They also have a healthier gut microbiome, a field of study we are just barely breaking the surface on. Breast milk is constantly changing to support the baby's direct needs. Fat, protein, antibodies, and water content in breast milk fluctuate throughout the day to accommodate for the child's changing needs from session to session; something no other food source can do. Mothers who nurse their babies have a lower risk of high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer and breast cancer. They also have higher levels of oxytocin, known as the love hormone, this helps to bond with the baby and even stay more relaxed. From a country wide financial point of view, low rates of breastfeeding add more than $3 billion a year to medical costs, according to the CDC. Nursing a baby can save each family money in three ways. The cost of formula averages $1200-$1500 per year (speciality formulas being more) and healthcare costs are estimated at $1400 more annually for babies who are not fed breast milk for the first 6 months. Finally, the lost income associated with having to miss work to be with an unwell child impacts a family's budget.

    So if breastfeeding is so beneficial, why is it so controversial? Societal norms have a lot to do with it. In Greek mythology it was Hera's breast milk that made Hercules invincible and as it's told, her milk formed the milky way. As societies evolved there was once concern about lactation affecting fertility and husband's did not want their heirs limited, so it was discouraged. There was also fear that a nursing mom would not have the time and attention for her husband that he desired. Wet nurses (paying a lactating woman to nurse your baby for you) became a popular solution to those "problems" and even a sign of wealth and clout until about the 1920s. Modern formula was created in the late 1920s and then marketed as superb to nursing (and another sign of wealth). That is until babies were dying from contaminated water sources and lack of appropriate vitamin/mineral ratios. The paradigm shifted again and nursing came into favor once more. Now, the biggest challenge most families face is support in their work place and the community.

    Entire generations have lost "grandmother's wisdom" of the nursing journey and more mothers of infants are in the workforce now than ever before. That coupled with the development of modern hygiene practices and the ongoing research, this is uncharted territory in the world of breastfeeding. Recognizing the need for community support and the hope to keep our mothers and babies healthier, Big Sandy Medical Center is taking a two step approach to making local change. As one of the largest employers in Big Sandy, the facility is taking steps to become a Mother-friendly work site. The goal is to have this designation by the end of 2023. That will support the employees and their families. To support the families in the community, BSMC will soon offer Lactation Counselling services. Services offered to families in the prenatal months and through the entire breastfeeding journey. Together, we can make a difference for our local young families, their employers, and the health of the community.

    Lab Work at a Discount

    Lab Work at a Discount June 28, 2023

    By Jessica Ophus

    Everyone looks for ways to save a few bucks, especially when it comes to medical bills. BSMC Laboratory is here to help by now offering Patient Directed Testing (PDT). PDT is a process where you as the patient get to choose which lab tests you'd like completed without a doctor's order. Yes, you read that right. You, the patient, get to walk to the lab, ask for the tests you'd like, and get them done! Our Lab is regulated by the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA), a sector of CMS. This regulation, along with compliance of State Laws, helps to ensure the lab professionals can safely complete your testing. The lab professionals do not interpret your results, will not make medication adjustments based on your results, and cannot offer any medical advice. Those tasks must all be completed by your provider. You will receive your results that day via the patient portal, or in the mail within 2-4 days. You may also request that those results be sent directly to your provider in the same 2-4 days. If your provider is out of town having to fast before your lab draw can make for a long drive! With PDT you can get your labs drawn right here in town, the results will be at your provider office waiting for you, and you can do it all at a discounted price. If you need a PCR Covid test before travel, you don't have to sit in a waiting room and see a provider for nothing more than a negative result. You can walk straight to the lab and get it done! If you have concerns of a child's drug use, you can walk right in and request a urine drug screen. Or maybe you just want to collect some more in depth information prior to an appointment with your provider. No problem, there's no appointment necessary. Just come into the lab, request your test and gather information!

    These tests can be offered at a discount because we're taking everyone else out of it! No provider office visit, insurance is not billed and you pay at the time of your lab draw. So there is no additional fees for the provider's time, the billing and coding team's time, or the invoicing service. There is a flat rate set for each lab so you know exactly what you'll need to pay before showing up and that fee can even be covered with your HSA or FSA money! You will also be provided a receipt so you can take the steps to apply the cost to your insurance deductible, but the facility will not do that for you. This is how we keep costs down.

    This service is for anyone. No matter your insurance status, no matter your age, no matter where you seek primary care, if you'd like the labs done you can come here and get them done! BSMC lab can complete a wide variety of tests, the following are PDT options: Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP), Complete Blood Count (CBC), Lipid Panel, Hemoglobin A1C, Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Magnesium, Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA), Folic Acid, Free T4, Free T3, Cholesterol, Iron, Iron Binding Capacity, Ferritin, Urine Drug Testing, Urinalysis, Fasting Glucose, Covid-19 PCR. Those in bold indicate normal annual labs ordered by our providers. An interesting thing to note is that our providers follow the most up to date recommendations on which labs to review annually. Most insurance companies are behind in accepting those up to date changes, so some of your annual labs are not covered by mainstream insurance yet. PDT can be a great way to mitigate those extra costs. Your healthcare should not be governed by your insurance coverage. To learn which labs your insurance covers, you'll need to ask your insurance company.
    Also starting July 1, BSMC will be offering FREE diabetic screenings. This service is being provided by a grant through AHEC-MSU Bozeman. At least 120 tests will be covered by this generous grant. Head over to the lab next week and get your blood work completed! Lab hours are M-F, 8 am to 4:30 pm. If you have any questions call 406-378-3912.

    Patient Directed Testing

    Lab Work at a Discount June 28, 2023

    By Jessica Ophus

    Everyone looks for ways to save a few bucks, especially when it comes to medical bills. BSMC Laboratory is here to help by now offering Patient Directed Testing (PDT). PDT is a process where you as the patient get to choose which lab tests you'd like completed without a doctor's order. Yes, you read that right. You, the patient, get to walk to the lab, ask for the tests you'd like, and get them done! Our Lab is regulated by the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA), a sector of CMS. This regulation, along with compliance of State Laws, helps to ensure the lab professionals can safely complete your testing. The lab professionals do not interpret your results, will not make medication adjustments based on your results, and cannot offer any medical advice. Those tasks must all be completed by your provider. You will receive your results that day via the patient portal, or in the mail within 2-4 days. You may also request that those results be sent directly to your provider in the same 2-4 days. If your provider is out of town having to fast before your lab draw can make for a long drive! With PDT you can get your labs drawn right here in town, the results will be at your provider office waiting for you, and you can do it all at a discounted price. If you need a PCR Covid test before travel, you don't have to sit in a waiting room and see a provider for nothing more than a negative result. You can walk straight to the lab and get it done! If you have concerns of a child's drug use, you can walk right in and request a urine drug screen. Or maybe you just want to collect some more in depth information prior to an appointment with your provider. No problem, there's no appointment necessary. Just come into the lab, request your test and gather information!

    These tests can be offered at a discount because we're taking everyone else out of it! No provider office visit, insurance is not billed and you pay at the time of your lab draw. So there is no additional fees for the provider's time, the billing and coding team's time, or the invoicing service. There is a flat rate set for each lab so you know exactly what you'll need to pay before showing up and that fee can even be covered with your HSA or FSA money! You will also be provided a receipt so you can take the steps to apply the cost to your insurance deductible, but the facility will not do that for you. This is how we keep costs down.

    This service is for anyone. No matter your insurance status, no matter your age, no matter where you seek primary care, if you'd like the labs done you can come here and get them done! BSMC lab can complete a wide variety of tests, the following are PDT options: Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP), Complete Blood Count (CBC), Lipid Panel, Hemoglobin A1C, Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Magnesium, Prostate Specific Antigetn (PSA), Folic Acid, Free T4, Free T3, Cholesterol, Iron, Iron Binding Capacity, Ferritin, Urine Drug Testing, Urinalysis, Fasting Glucose, Covid-19 PCR. Those in bold indicate normal annual labs ordered by our providers. An interesting thing to note is that our providers follow the most up to date recommendations on which labs to review annually. Most insurance companies are behind in accepting those up to date changes, so some of your annual labs are not covered by mainstream insurance yet. PDT can be a great way to mitigate those extra costs. Your healthcare should not be governed by your insurance coverage. To learn which labs your insurance covers, you'll need to ask your insurance company.
    Also starting July 1, BSMC will be offering FREE diabetic screenings. This service is being provided by a grant through AHEC-MSU Bozeman. At least 120 tests will be covered by this generous grant. Head over to the lab next week and get your blood work completed! Lab hours are M-F, 8 am to 4:30 pm. If you have any questions call 406-378-3912.

    CNAs bring heart to BSMC

    CNAs bring heart to BSMC June 14, 2023

    By Jessica Ophus

    Essential workers took on a whole new meaning during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. In healthcare though, we've always known and recognized that CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants) are essential to the daily operations in any medical facility. Especially the week of June 15-21 when we celebrate Nursing Assistant Week.

    A CNA assists patients with all the tasks most of us take for granted daily. Things like bathing, dressing, moving from a chair to bed and the like. Because of their close involvement with each patient, they become very attached, but also very aware. They are the eyes and ears for the nurse's they work with, reporting changes or concerns immediately. There's a saying that behind every great nurse there is a running CNA. That is certainly true for the staff at BSMC. The team of CNAs on staff right now are one of the strongest we've ever had. Their care, compassion, and light-hearted approach is appreciated and welcomed in the facility.

    Nursing Assistants were first introduced to health care during World War I, when the American Red Cross founded the "Volunteer Nurses' Aid Service." These gals helped care for the soldiers that were wounded during the war. The demand for Aids increased so much that President Reagan officially recognized the profession shortly after. In 1977, the first Nursing Assistants week was declared. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that we will see a 5% growth in the need for CNAs from 2021 to 2031. Always willing to support growth, CNA classes are available at the Big Sandy Medical Center. Contact Jessica at 406-378-3917 if you're interested in a class. After completing the training, you would join the ranks of the awesome team we have right now.

    Words are never enough to honor them for the care they provide, but Ashley, DON shared a few words about each CNA to celebrate CNA week. If you see any one of these great ladies around, tip your hat and know you are amongst one of the best.
    Here are some fun facts about each CNA from Ashley:
    Deb Baumgarn:
    Denise Harmon:
    Nicole Mitchell:
    Abria Smallboy:
    Jaycee Worrall:
    Kodi Boone:
    Hannah Williams:
    Dusti Phillips:
    Lynn Faber:
    Kasondra ____:
    Caitlyn Terry:
    Lisa Laforge:
    Abbi Conner:
    Dawnalee ____:
    Thank you girls, for all that you do. You bring so much heart to BSMC, we appreciate you!

    Community Health Improvement Week

    Community Health Improvement Week June 7, 2023

    By Jessica Ophus

    In 1962, a plan was devised to build a medical center in the Big Sandy Community. The folks recognized that keeping a doctor around was vital for the town. They knew a sure way to do that was to provide a space for them to work with patients needing medical care. The community came together, raised the funds, and built the Big Sandy Medical Center in 1965. While having a doctor in town was sure handy, the goals of the facility have always revolved around the care of the people it serves. As patients, family members, or the community as a whole, the facility strives to provide opportunities for wellness to every facet of the area. With Community Health Improvement week June 12-June 16, there will be a few special offerings to support that exact mission.

    First, with help of a Mini Grant from AHEC (Area Health and Education Center)- MSU Bozeman we will be offering free A1C screenings to the community. The goal is to evaluate at least 120 people. A1C is a test that helps to identify diabetes or pre-diabetes with a simple lab draw. This will be offered free of charge thanks to the grant from June 14-August 14, or until 150 tests have been completed.

    This will also be an opportunity to pilot a new Patient Directed Testing offering from the Laboratory. After the clinic has moved into the new building, the Lab will begin offering "Patient Directed Testing". This is an opportunity for patients to come and request their own lab work without a doctor's order. You must pay up front for these tests and insurance cannot be billed for them, but it provides the patient the ability to be more involved in their own care and receive important information at a cheaper rate. This program is still in the early phases of development, more information will be provided once it is "live."

    For our younger population, Babysitting classes will be available! This is an 8 hour class, taught by Jessica Ophus, RN, to young people ages 9-14. This class will help prepare students to start their own babysitting business, including how to safely market their services, provide basic child care and first aide, and what to do in an emergency. It is ideal for anyone who cares for children, whether that is a younger sibling, or providing child care for another family. Class cost is $25 and will include lunch. Class will be offered on June 22, from 8 am - 5 pm, please call Jessica at 406-378-3917 to register.

    The final offering to be available in celebration of Community Health Improvement week will be a CPR class. This class is open to all ages and will provide all training necessary to perform CPR to anyone who has become unresponsive without a heart beat. This will be a 4 hour class, from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm at the BSMC Conference Room on June 20. Class size is limited, please call Jessica to register at 406-378-3917.
    Krystyl Kulbeck, PA will continue to do blood pressure checks at the Senior Center and continues to provide Diabetic Education to those interested. Of course Big Sandy Medical Center is always here to support all your health care needs.

    Remember, health isn't just about good lab work and normal blood pressure. Being well mentally, spiritually and physically all matter. Join the local gym, get outside for a walk or bike ride, go for a hike, whatever you chose, move your body. If you need support reach out to a mental health professional or your clergy. And be a good neighbor. We're all in this together, look out for one another.

    Stay well Big Sandy, you're the heart of BSMC.

    National Nurse's Week

    National Nurse's Week May 3, 2023

    By Jessica Ophus

    Florence Nightingale is said to be the "Mother of Nursing" helping to mold the nursing profession into what we know it as today. She was born on May 12th, 1820. Due to her advocacy for hygiene, nursing care, training, and higher standards she created the foundation of what nursing looks like today. Because of her successful efforts, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) proclaimed May 12th (Nightingale's birthday) as International Nurse's Day in 1974. Despite many attempts to recognize nurses in the US-the first documented attempt in 1953- it wasn't until after the ICN proclaimed Nurse's Day that the White House designated National Nurse Week in America. Four years later, Governor Brendon Byrne declared May 6th as Nurses Day in the state of New Jersey. By 1982, the American Nurses Association (ANA) formally acknowledged the day as well. Closely followed by the US Congress and then a proclamation signed by Ronald Reagan on March 25th.

    In 1990, the ANA expanded recognition of nurses to a week-long celebration that still stands today. From May 6th to May 12th every year in the United States, we celebrate National Nurse's Week. In '93 the dates were set and ordered to remain the same in all subsequent years. 4 years later, the National Student Nurses Association designated May 8th as National Student Nurses Day. Florence would have likely encouraged the celebration of those who are working on their education, but not quite nurses yet.

    This year we recognize the nurses of BSMC: Ashley Allderdice-Jacobi, RN, DON, Jessica Ophus, RN, Randy Pearson, RN, Billie Skelton, RN, Danielle Leeds, RN, Lorraine Hanson, RN, Samantha Potter, LPN, Sarah Bond, LPN and our current traveling nurses, Gena Bass, RN and Renae Wade, LPN. Without this great team of nurses, the facility would not be able to stay open. These nurses care for your loved ones, or maybe even for you. They are the backbone of the facility; be sure to offer them a 'thank you' for being of service to our community 24/7/365.

    As we celebrate nurses in the nation, we must also recognize the hospitals for which they are employed. National Hospital Week is slated for May 7-13 this year. Hospital Week was initially created in 1921, as 'Hospital Day' by the National Hospital Association (NHA). It was designed as a strategy to help rebuild confidence in hospitals following the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. Over 30 years later, in 1953, the day was extended to a week to allow for further education for the public around health and services hospitals provide.

    At BSMC Hospital Week is celebrated with fervor every year. With dress up days, special food on the menu, and lot's of fun, it's quite the party. Lisa Sipler and her team of helpers create something to remember for the residents, the staff, and the community. Be watching for the story covering the week's festivities in a future issue. Community members are invited to attend the Ice Cream Social, being held Friday May 12 at 2:00 pm at the BSMC dining room/courtyard. Rub elbows with the nurses and hospital staff, visit with the residents and enjoy the beautiful day with some tasty ice cream.

    Hospital Week Is Here!

    Hospital Week Is Here! May 10, 2023

    By Jessica Ophus

    The American Hospital Association designates a theme for Hospital Week every year. This year: We Are Healthcare; caring for patients, strengthening communities. That is certainly true for the community of Big Sandy and its local medical center, but it is not just a one-way street. The community supports this facility as much as we care for the community.

    We are pleased to welcome the community back into the facility to celebrate Hospital Week with us, May 8-12. You'll find spirit week style dress-up days, special meals, and lots of fun around BSMC this week. For the first time in three years, Hospital Week will be celebrated without masks, without visiting restrictions, and WITH an Ice Cream Social. While we certainly appreciated the community for coming together and hosting parades in lieu of the ice cream social and respecting the rules and regulations during the pandemic, we are thrilled to bring this back. You're welcome to join us this Friday, May 12 at 2 pm for a healthy serving of the frozen favorite with all the toppings. We know the patients would all love to see your smiling faces.
    As we bring back the fullness of the Hospital Week celebration, we are also excited to bring back the 5th graders this fall. They will come to visit regularly next school year, joining the residents for activities and celebrations. The connections and bonds they make during this program is certainly something special, we're looking forward to having them make regular appearances again.

    The support of this community goes far beyond joining us for celebrations and sharing memories. We are finally within days of breaking ground on the kitchen remodel project! This project would not have come to fruition without the support of the Medical Guild and the BSMC Foundation. Truly, it is your support of those organizations that has allowed the opportunity for substantial donations to this project. Thank you to those who volunteer and serve in the organizations and those who donate their financial gifts to help make these improvement projects possible.

    As you give to the facility through various ways, we in turn give to our patients, but also our staff. We now have four nurses who have completed the Trauma Nursing Core Course. This education helps improve care of trauma patients in the Emergency Room. Our nurses aren't the only ones growing in their education though. Kodi Boone started at BSMC as a dietary aide last year and is just about complete with her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) training now. And Katie Derry has worked with us as a CNA while completing her nursing education and will be joining the team as an RN this spring.

    And so, it comes full circle. A hospital that grows, changes, and evolves to keep up with society. Patients and their families that adapt along the way. A community that supports it all. And staff that make every day enjoyable. Happy Hospital Week from BSMC! We Are Healthcare; caring for patients, strengthening communities. We will see you on Friday, May 12 at 2 pm!

    National EMS Week

    National EMS Week: Where Emergency Care Begins May 17, 2023

    By Jessica Ophus

    This week is the 49th Annual National EMS Week. The week was first designated by President Gerald Ford in 1974 with the intention to celebrate all that EMS practitioners do in the community. In Big Sandy, our Emergency Medical Services are provided solely by volunteers. Currently the following names are on the volunteer roster: Dusty Allderdice, Paula Amsbaugh, Tim Bahnmiller, Maggie Cline, Chris Horton, NP, Pete Jerrel, Krystyl Kulbeck, PA, Nathan Merrill, Jessica Ophus, Heather Plenninger, Jim Robertson, and Melanie Schwarzbach. Your passion for helping others does not go unnoticed, thank you for what you do!

    These folks have a deep understanding of the theme for the week: Where Emergency Care Begins. Being an EMT means you're the one that responds to the 911 call. These folks leave their jobs, their families, and sometimes their warm beds to come to the rescue of those in need. They take the appropriate steps to keep these patients safe and alive until they arrive at the Big Sandy Medical Center. In the year 2022, they brought 26 patients to BSMC and assisted in 31 transfers to higher levels of care.

    To be an EMT, you must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or equivalent, have completed an approved training course, and passed the NREMT (National Registry of Emergency Medical Technician) exam. The course can be completed in a few months but prepares you for a myriad of emergency situations.

    Emergencies can happen anywhere, at any time. It is up to these folks to find their way to you and get you into the ambulance. As these volunteers give so much to the community, the least we can do is make their jobs a little easier. If you ever need to call 911 for an emergency, the time between the call and when help arrives can feel like an eternity. If you are not actively performing life saving measures (CPR, stopping bleeding etc.), take the time to consider a few things about your home. Is the address on your home well marked? Can the crew find your place easily or do you need to send someone to the road to flag them down, or at the very least know the name of the road to turn onto from the highway? Is the door easily accessible? Do vehicles/equipment need to be moved so the Ambulance has a place to park? Is the walkway free of clutter/snow/ice so a stretcher can be wheeled to your loved one? Is the door unlocked so they can get inside? Are the pets secure so they won't accidentally escape amidst the chaos, or be distracting to the team trying to work? Do you have an up-to-date medication and allergy list and POLST form for the patient?

    Making sure these things are taken care of helps EMTs get to your loved one sooner and begin any life saving measures that are necessary. It is a helpless and frustrating feeling to know someone needs help on the other side of the locked door. Sometimes, we don't think clearly in an emergency, so consider running through these questions now and making an emergency plan for your family and your home.

    Be sure to thank our local volunteers this week! Big Sandy is lucky to have such great first responders.

    From BSMC to each of our EMT's and first responders: Thank you for all that you do. We appreciate you!

    Hands Save Lives

    Hands Save Lives May 31, 2023

    By Jessica Ophus

    Do you know what to do if your loved ones heart stops? Of course you'd call 911, but what will you do while you wait? If CPR is started within one minute of a person becoming unresponsive, they have a 90% chance of survival. Those are pretty good odds, but survival rates dwindle quickly. Their chances decrease by 10% for every minute that the heart is not beating. Living in rural Montana means you can drive from one side of town to the other in just a couple of minutes, however, it also means that help may be hours away. Especially on rural roads or winter conditions. While most people know what to do in a fire, knowing what to do when a loved one becomes unresponsive is less common knowledge. That is why, in 2007, the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross, and the National Safety Council worked together to create what is now known as National CPR Week. In the first week of June, CPR is highlighted and people from all walks of life are encouraged to learn how to perform this life saving maneuver.
    It is estimated that 70% of cardiac arrests happen in the home. So it is very likely that you will be the one waiting with your spouse, parent, sibling, friend, or even child if their heart were to stop. The first step is to get help on the way. Call 911 and let the ambulance crew get headed your direction. Then you take action. Anyone can perform CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation). While receiving formal training through an in person class is ideal, knowing how to perform compression only CPR can be taught here in this article. That is right, you can perform only chest compressions and that would be enough to help save a life. Here's why: compressions pump the blood to the organs when the heart cannot. Keeping blood to the brain, heart, and other vital organs is what keeps them alive. Oxygen provided in breaths is beneficial, but not necessary for survival.

    This may be different than anything you've heard about CPR in the past. This change was made several years ago after much research and deliberation. The American Heart Association is constantly doing research to help improve the techniques and teachings of CPR to improve survival rates. Every 5 years they release new teachings with that updated research. Therefore you are encouraged to retake a CPR class every 2 to 5 years. About 15 years ago, the teaching for hands only CPR was introduced.

    Here's the gist of it: place your hands on the lower half of the breastbone and push hard and fast. It is that simple. Compressions should be at a rate of 100-120 per minute. Compressing at a rate that is on beat with the Bee Gees song, "Staying Alive" or even the "Imperial March" from Star Wars would be the right rate. Going too fast could hinder your efforts the same as going too slow, so sing a song in your head and keep up the good work until other help arrives

    While we'd all love to think we will never need this knowledge, using your hands could truly make all the difference in saving the life of a loved one.
    If you're interested in a hands on class to learn how to perform CPR, please call Jessica, the BSMC Education Coordinator, at 406.378.3917. `

    Brain Injury Awareness Month

    Brain Injury Awareness Month March 29, 2023

    By Jessica Ophus

    March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. With the ice we've seen this year we are acutely aware of how quickly a life-changing injury can occur. The first thought is often broken bones, but have you ever considered how quickly your brain health can change?

    According to the Brain Injury Association of America, 5.3 million Americans are living with a permanent brain-injury related disability. There are at least 2.8 million people in America who suffer from traumatic brain injuries (TBI) every year. A TBI is any alteration in brain function, caused by external force or trauma. Falls are one of the common causes of traumatic brain injury. Assault, car accidents, sports injuries, gunshot wounds, abuse, and blast injury are all other causes. Four-wheeler, motorcycle, snowmobile accidents and/or horse accidents are something we see around here often. Concussion is the most common TBI, but injuries caused by whiplash are also common.

    Brain injury isn't always the cause of a traumatic event though. Sometimes problems like stroke or seizure cause injury to the brain. Infectious processes like meningitis, poisoning, or tumors can also be to blame. Finally, there is poison (carbon monoxide and lead exposure) and drug and alcohol overdose causing brain injury.

    Brain injury is unique in healthcare in that there are no two injuries that are the same. Long-term effects of stroke are dependent on what kind of stroke was sustained and where the injury occurred in the brain. For example, a clot that was in the left side of the brain will cause deficits on the right side of the body. If it is in the back part of the brain, it can cause deficits in a person's vision. Sometimes the brain can create new pathways to relearn how to function as well as prior to the injury, sometimes there is too much damage for that to occur. Either way, recovery from brain injury is a long road that requires a team of professionals to have the best recovery outcome.

    How do you know if you have sustained a brain injury? Vision changes, loss of consciousness, weakness, paralysis, balance problems, dizziness, headaches, problems thinking clearly, vomiting, difficulty speaking, loss of bowel and bladder control, and any numbness and tingling can all be symptoms. If you have any kind of trauma and experience these symptoms it is best to be evaluated by your local health care team at BSMC. Of course, any time you have concerns you should be evaluated, but specifically for any loss of consciousness, or any signs of stroke. Some strokes can be treated if caught within the first few hours of symptom onset, so it is vital to be evaluated sooner rather than later.

    BSMC is patiently awaiting the spring thaw to get started on the new clinic building. After the clinic has moved, we can begin work on the remodel to prepare for the CT machine. This is a huge step forward in diagnosing brain injuries. For the time being, after you are assessed by a provider, we will help to arrange transportation to a facility with the appropriate diagnostic equipment and treatment teams. Anyone who suffers long term effects from a brain injury is welcome to live here at the Big Sandy Medical Center. Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and 24 hour nursing care is available. We wouldn't be us without you, thank you for being the heart of BSMC.

    National Cancer Prevention Month

    National Cancer Prevention Month March 22, 2023

    By Jessica Ophus

    1.7 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer every year. That is more people than live in the entire state of Montana, according to 2021 data. February is National Cancer Prevention Month. According to the American Association of Cancer Research, preventable causes are the catalyst for over 40% of all cancers diagnosed and almost half of all deaths from cancer. While genetics play a role in your risk and is out of your control, things like smoking, sun exposure, physical activity, and excess body weight are all considered preventable contributors to a higher cancer risk.

    So how can you help prevent yourself from becoming one of the 600,000 people who die from cancer every year? Start with limiting those preventable causes and get your regular screenings. To limit your UV exposure, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends an SPF of at least 30 or higher if you need to be out in the sun, stay covered with light weight clothing and hats, and avoid tanning beds entirely. Even just one session in a tanning bed can increase your chances of melanoma (skin cancer) by 75% before the age of 35 according to the Cancer Network.

    Of course, lung cancer can be greatly reduced by not smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke exposure as well. Excessive alcohol use is linked to many different cancers, including breast cancer in women, and liver, colon, rectum, mouth, pharynx, larynx, and esophagus cancers in men and women. For men, 5 or more drinks and 4 or more drinks for women is considered excessive alcohol use. In other words, one glass of red wine a day may be beneficial, but a whole bottle every day will put you at a higher risk of developing cancer. Obesity is a factor in over 10 different types of cancer, including colorectal, breast and uterine cancers. Maintaining a healthy weight can be obtained with a balanced diet and exercise. Finally, there are vaccines available for some cancers. The HPV vaccine can reduce your risk of getting cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers as well as anal cancer and genital warts. While the Hepatitis B vaccine can reduce your risk of obtaining liver cancer. The decisions you make regarding your health today certainly affect your health in the years to come.

    One other crucial step in cancer survival is routine cancer screenings. As you age, your risk of cancer increases. Family history, certain medication use, and other health problems may increase your chances or alter the screening recommendations for you, so it is important to discuss screenings with your primary care provider. However, for folks at average risk for cancer annual screenings should become a part of your routine. People between 50 and 80 years old who are currently smoking or who have quit within the past 15 years are encouraged to receive a low-dose CT scan once a year. Adults between ages 45-75 are encouraged to get a colorectal screening for colon cancer. A home screening kit may be useful, or a colonoscopy may be used for screening. Women are encouraged to get a Pap smear every 2-3 years after turning 21 to screen for cervical cancer, and mammograms every one to two years after age 40 to screen for breast cancer.

    The screenings that are right for you is a decision best made after a conversation with your primary care provider. The providers at BSMC are happy to help arrange many of your regular screenings. Mammograms, ordering Cologuard and reviewing results, and Pap smears are available now, and CT scans will be available in the near future. Our providers are also happy to assess your skin for questionable melanoma (skin cancer). If you would like assistance reducing your cancer risks or obtaining evaluation for any concerns, you can make an appointment at the Big Sandy Medical Center Clinic. 406.378.2189. It is our mission to take care of the people who are the heart of BSMC and that includes preventing further illness. As Desiderius Erasmus stated, "Prevention is better than cure."

    BSMC Kitchen Addition Coming Soon

    BSMC Kitchen Addition Coming Soon March 15, 2023

    By Jessica Ophus

    In fall of 2021, Starle Taylor joined the BSMC team as the Dietary Manager. Prior to her job here, she worked at the Ft. Benton Hospital for 31 years. Working with Star are Patti Pegar, April Reid, Sierra Grimwood, Karla Whetham, Jamie Jones, and Kodi Boone. Each staff member is ServSafe Certified. A certification that provides training in food safety and sanitation. This is not something that is required by the State or CMS but is encouraged by Star for all her employees. Aside from the time spent managing her staff, Star fills her days with maintaining policies, creating the menu for the residents, and making sure the pantry and freezers are stocked from week to week. This year will add one more challenge to her plate as the kitchen will be remodeled in the coming months.

    This is a big project and long overdue. The kitchen and pantry are crowded, the cupboards and wall coverings are outdated, and the loading dock is only accessible through the alley. The kitchen staff cook an average of 75 meals a day for the folks who are admitted at BSMC and the employees. When the Senior Center was closed, they also prepared meals for community members. That is when the fundraising really started to make improvements to the area.

    With the help of Becki Miller from 3 Point Architects, Inc. in Gilford, MT the project is starting to take shape. The plan is to add about 600 square feet (about twice the area of a parking space) next to the patio on the south side of the building. This space will hold dry storage, a walk-in cooler/freezer and provide alternative access for trucks with a new loading dock.

    Improvements will be made to the current workspace as well. The wall coverings will be updated so they are washable to meet infection control standards. The cabinets will be replaced with stainless steel to provide easier sanitation, but also a timeless look. The current ones are burnt orange, so you know they've been there awhile! Equipment will be rearranged so the space can be used more efficiently, both for meal prep, but also storage. The kitchen staff are excited to have more working room and to no longer feel like they are working on top of one another while preparing the wonderful meals they provide for the folks at BSMC.

    It goes without saying that this undertaking is not just a lot of work for the contractors, but there is a lot to be done to prepare. Infection control and sanitation during construction must be at the forefront of everyone's minds. Sawdust sandwiches are not on the menu! Being able to have productive workdays, for both the crews trying to safely work, for example, turning off the propane, water, and electricity during key points in construction, and the kitchen staff still being able to serve meals at regular intervals will require great attention and communication in planning. And of course, flexibility among all involved to help this project go smoothly and be completed quickly.

    It is a big financial undertaking as well. The project has been awarded monies from the Lippard-Clawiter Foundation and the Tordick Wildlife Foundation. The Medical Guild has donated money from their annual rummage sale to support the project. The BSMC Foundation has also put money towards the project. A patient who stayed for a few weeks in the summer of 2022 donated a sum of money to show her appreciation to the facility. The remaining funds will be supplied through a loan from the local bank so work can begin as soon as possible. BSMC is grateful to everyone who supports the facility and its improvements; whether that is through shopping at the Rummage Sale or donating to a Foundation, your support does not go unnoticed. It is after all the people who are the heart of BSMC.

    Cold Weather Safety

    Cold Weather Safety March 1, 2023

    By Jessica Ophus

    The first day of spring is only 3 weeks away and while that means green grass and blooming flowers are on the horizon, there is still plenty of cold weather to survive. According to the National Weather Service, today is the day we should begin planning for spring weather and forego our winter weather preparations. If last week showed us anything, it's that Mother Nature doesn't abide by the calendar! Big Sandy Medical Center is always here to take care of you, whether you've fallen on the ice or suffered a sunburn, but prevention is key.

    Ice has been the culprit of many challenges and injuries this year. According to the CDC over 1 million Americans are injured on the ice every year. To prevent ice buildup on driveways and walkways, be sure to remove snow before it gets packed down. Ice melt, kitty litter, and sand can be applied to any areas where ice has already accumulated. To keep yourself safe when walking on ice consider slow steady movements, be mindful of where you walk, and wear appropriate footwear. Rubber and neoprene soled shoes will offer the best traction on ice and snow. If you do find yourself falling, tuck your chin to your chest to help prevent your head from coming in contact with the ground. You should also try to land on your side and don't use your hands to catch yourself to help prevent broken bones. After a fall, check in with your body to evaluate your ability to stand. If you are unable to stand up immediately, call for help, then do what you can to stay warm. The ground will absorb much of your body heat so if you can limit points of contact with the ground that will help you to stay warmer while waiting for assistance. It is wise to seek medical attention for any pain that occurs after a fall. If you take any blood thinners and have hit your head on the ground, it is recommended that you be evaluated for potential bleeding in the brain. Evaluation is crucial as symptoms of a brain bleed may not be present right away.

    If you must drive on the icy roads, be sure to give yourself plenty of extra time to get to your destination. Consider slowing your speeds to 45 mph on icy roads. Driving 45 instead of 70 will help prevent sliding and losing control, and also make stopping more successful. At 45 mph, you can drive 40 miles in 53 minutes versus 34 minutes to cover the same distance when driving 70 mph. That is less than 20 minutes difference and certainly a better spent 20 minutes than sitting in the ditch waiting for a tow or worse, heading to the BSMC ER to be evaluated for injuries after an accident. While driving if you begin to skid, ease your foot off the gas and turn your wheels in the direction you want the front of the car to go. Most vehicles have an anti-lock braking system (ABS), so steady pressure to the brake pedal is the way to go. If your vehicle does not have an ABS system, then you'll want to apply and release pressure at a steady rate to prevent your wheels from locking up and avoid skidding. If these strategies don't work and you do get stuck in the ditch after sliding on the snow and ice, stay in your vehicle and run the engine for about ten minutes every hour to allow for warmth. In this time, you want to roll the window down for some fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. You'll also need to clear snow from the exhaust pipe to avoid gas poisoning. Keep the dome light on while running the engine to help your vehicle be visible to rescuers. You can also tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or door.

    It's important to always dress for the wintry weather too. With windchills of just 18 below zero, you can suffer from frostbite in as little as 30 minutes. Early signs of frostbite include pale, dry skin, pain, tingling, burning, or aching, and swelling of an area. If you experience any of these symptoms, protect your skin from the elements as soon as possible. Seek treatment if blisters occur. Hypothermia is also a risk factor in cold temperatures. At the first sign of shivering and/or difficulty pronouncing words, get indoors and warm up! In the event of increased confusion or increased heart rate, medical attention is needed.

    BSMC is happy to help in any instance that you need medical assistance. Hopefully, this is the end of the cold, wintry weather for a while. Until then, stay on your feet or on the road, and no matter where your day takes you, stay warm!

    Happy Heart Month

    Happy Heart Month Feb 8, 2023

    Jessica Ophus

    Isn't it fitting that Valentine's Day is home to the same month as American Heart Month? American Heart Month is a wonderful time to focus on your cardiovascular health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. For many, the Covid-19 Pandemic led to an increase in heart problems as the lockdown contributed to more sedentary behavior, poor eating habits, increased alcohol intake, and increased stress. People also delayed their care due to the lock down, putting off everything from regular checkups to seeking treatment for chest pain or discomfort. According to an article in the journal Circulation, from 2010-2019 there was a 26.6% increase in people who died of cardiovascular disease worldwide. This sharp increase in deaths, the increase of poor outcomes for people with heart attacks and strokes (due to delay of treatment), and the potential harmful effects of the virus on the cardiovascular system makes heart health awareness even more crucial this year.

    In most cases heart disease is preventable. Some of the biggest risk factors include, high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, diabetes, smoking and secondhand smoke exposure, obesity, an unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity. While genetics also play a role, many of these risks can be lessened by the lifestyle you live.

    According to cancer.org, within 2 weeks of quitting smoking your circulation begins to improve and within a year your risk of heart attack declines dramatically. Choosing to quit smoking and avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke is beneficial for more than just your heart health. As early as one month after your last cigarette your shortness of breath improves, and by 5 years smoke free your risk of cancer is cut in half. By 15 years smoke free, your cardiovascular risks are close to the same as a non-smoker. Your body can heal itself if you give it the opportunity!

    High blood pressure is often referred to as the silent killer because it causes damage, but often no symptoms. 120/80 is considered "normal." Lowering your blood pressure can be accomplished by many different avenues. Lifestyle changes require the most commitment, but the least amount of time in a doctor's office. Heart.org encourages you to eat a well-balanced, low salt diet, be physically active and maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress, quit nicotine products, and limit your alcohol intake. There are also medications that can help reduce high blood pressure. Working together with your provider you can find a medication and dose that works with your body and lifestyle if a medication is needed to maintain a healthy blood pressure.

    You'll notice that reducing stress has already been mentioned multiple times. This is easier said than done. Stress is often a byproduct of daily obligations, but it does not have to contribute to your poor health. It may sound simple, but making time for your family and friends can help ease stress. Social connection is important. Lack of sleep is another big contributor to increased stress. Seven to nine hours a night is a good goal for the average adult. Using relaxation techniques like breathwork or meditation can help encourage a good night's sleep, while also reducing your stress. Regular exercise is known to reduce stress as well. Using the local facilities or attending classes can be a great way to have social connections and move your body. Walking briskly through your house for 20 minutes a day or participating in an exercise program found online can also be helpful. Lastly, participating in hobbies you enjoy and maintaining a positive attitude can be helpful in lowering your stress levels.

    You don't have to get overwhelmed trying to make all these changes at once. One positive action triggers a cascade of positive effects in the body. Small steps every day are the best way to improve your heart health. The healthcare team at Big Sandy Medical Center is ready to team up with you as you make these changes. Make heart health your priority this month!

    Patient Rec. Week

    Patient Rec.Week Feb 1, 2023

    This week, our hats are off to you, the people of our community. What is a hospital without its patients? This facility was built over 50 years ago with none other than the people of the Big Sandy area in mind. It is the people who founded BSMC. It is the people who volunteer on the Board of Directors. It is the people who are employees. But most importantly, it is the people who become patients. The first week of February is Patient Recognition Week. Thank you for choosing us for your healthcare needs.

    While HIPPA laws prevent us from thanking you individually, know that our gratitude extends to each and every one of you.

    In the year 2022, BSMC served 304 patients in the Emergency Room. Our Emergency Department is open 24/7/365. Currently, a patient needing Emergent Services has access to labs, x-rays, nursing care, and a limited pharmacy. The facility is not licensed as a "retail" pharmacy. That is the role of the Big Sandy Pharmacy in town, but their business hours are not 24/7 like those in the ER. To fill the gap, we have a limited stock of antibiotics and other prescription strength medications for those seen in the ER after the pharmacy has closed. Soon, we will add CT scans to our available assessment options as well. There is always a nurse on duty and a midlevel provider (PA or NP) available for your care. While the staff may need to be called in from home to help care for you, it is uncommon that you must sit in a waiting room full of other sick and uncomfortable people awaiting your turn.
    If your situation is not an Emergency warranting a trip to the ER, you are likely to have an appointment in the clinic like one of the 2,768 people seen by our providers in 2022. Our clinic is open Monday-Friday, 9-5 and staffed by CMAs (Certified Medical Assistant) and the same Midlevel providers you see in the ER. The same services are available to you as a clinic patient, plus the luxury of scheduled time where you are the sole focus. The clinic can also offer medication administration like Vitamin B or Testosterone injections, or your allergy shots, tetanus boosters, and flu shots. Annual and DOT exams, sports physicals, pre-op H&Ps, EKGs, and lab work can be completed locally. Sutures and staples can be removed here too. No need to make the trip to your surgeon's office just for that!

    Outpatient services include labs, x-rays, and nursing care. Last year, 48 patients were served in the outpatient setting. Nursing services can include IV antibiotics, fluid, or other infusions, catheter changes, port maintenance and wound care. Many lab tests can be completed, including blood counts, metabolic studies, thyroid testing, wound and strep cultures, flu and covid tests, urine and stool tests etc. Anything that cannot be completed inside of our facility, usually due to a lack of test-specific technology, are sent to Billings Clinic daily for further evaluation.

    Sometimes your care in the Clinic or ER earns you an overnight stay in the hospital. 59 patients experienced a stay at BSMC in 2022. Whether you stay as an inpatient, needing more acute care, or a swing bed patient, needing more time to rehab and recover before going back home, we are grateful for you! Receiving Physical Therapy and around the clock nursing care is certainly something worth sticking around for.
    While the number of patients we see in the clinic and ER varies from day to day, our Long-Term Care residents are the reason we come to work every day. Currently there are 18 residents calling BSMC home. They are the life of the facility, giving us reasons to celebrate, memories to share, and extra grandmas and grandpas for ourselves and our children. We are truly grateful for them and their families. That is the thing about caring for someone 24/7, their family becomes our family. As we recognize our patients this week, we also recognize the people who trust us to care for them.

    If you notice the center of the 50-year celebration rock, it states, "People, the heart of BSMC." You, the patients, are the lifeblood of the facility. Without you, the providers, nurses, CNAs, CMAs, lab techs, housekeepers, laundry staff, dietary staff, and business office personnel would be out of a job. We are here to serve you.

    Thank you for providing us with the opportunity. Thank you for trusting us with your health and the health of your loved ones. Thank you for being the heart of BSMC.

    Friday, February 3 we will celebrate you! Stop by the clinic for coffee and cookies and put your name in the drawing for some BSMC gear!

    Donate Life Month

    Donate Life Month Jan 11, 2023

    By Jessica Ophus

    There are over 100,000 men, women, and children waiting for lifesaving organ transplants, with another person being added to the list every 9 minutes. 17 people die every day waiting for their life saving donation. There is a national system that helps to match those on the list with a donation based on blood type, body size, severity of illness, geographic distance, tissue type, and how long they've been waiting on the list. One person who chooses to donate can save 9 lives through organ donation, provide sight for two people, and restore health for over 150 people through tissue donation.

    Tissue donation is something that often isn't thought about when considering "becoming a donor." While your heart, lungs, and kidneys can all save lives, tissue donation plays a big role is restoring another's wellbeing. It is estimated that one in 20 Americans will need a tissue transplant during their lifetime. Tissue like tendons (to rebuild joints), heart valves (to repair defects), veins (improve circulation), skin (heal burns and treat severe wounds), bones (to repair damage from injuries or bone degeneration) and even birth tissue, like the placenta, can be used in reconstructive procedures to promote healing, treat burns and other severe wounds.

    What can you do about it? You can start by registering as a donor through registerme.org. While there is no age restriction on donation, you must be 18 or older to be on the registry. What is the difference between that little heart on your driver's license and being on this registry? Your license is state specific, while this registration is available nationwide. When someone is a candidate for donation, the local donation professionals will search both the national registry and the state registry to determine if you were registered as a donor. According to the National Survey of Organ Donation Attitudes and Practices, about 90% of Americans support donation, but only half of them are registered to donate.

    After registering, you are encouraged to have a talk with your friends and family members about your wishes. No one enjoys talking about their end-of-life plans, but having those conversations while you are well and can calmly share your wishes. This can help ease the stress for your family if something unexpected happens.

    While choosing to be a donor is a purely personal choice, it can help to know that all major religions support donation as a final act of compassion and generosity. In the cases of trauma, advanced age, or serious illness when clinical transplantation is not possible, donation to support scientific research is certainly an option. This research can help support medical breakthroughs that help support the health of thousands more. There is no cost to be an organ and tissue donor and it does not change any of your funeral plans.

    It is vital that you know that being a donor does not change the care you receive in the hospital in any way. BSMC (and all health care facilities) are in the business of saving lives first. But there are some instances where that is not possible. Only after death is confirmed is donation an option.
    In 2022 42,887 organ transplants took place in the US. It was a record-breaking year. Maybe the record to beat this year is getting registered to donate! To learn more about organ and tissue donation, visit donatelife.net.

    Generous Donation Starts Celebration

    Generous Donation Starts New Year Celebration for Big Sandy Medical Center Jan 18, 2023

    By Ron Wiens

    Only three days into the new year and Big Sandy Medical Center (BSMC) is celebrating the generous donation of a large corner lot located across the street from the hospital's main facility. The donors, Lance Peterson and his sister, Michelle Wisbey are part of the larger Peterson and Pavlovick families. The property was once home to Elsie Pavlovick and after her passing, the property was inherited by her grandchildren Lance and Michelle.
    BSMC approached the Peterson's in the late fall about possibly selling the corner lot to BSMC so it could be used to house the new clinic building. With much sentimental value attached to this property, the Peterson's considered what grandma Elsie would want them to do with her homestead. "And then we got the call," remembers Harvey Keller, Board Chairman of BSMC. "Harvey, we've decided not to sell the property to BSMC, instead we want to donate it." And on January 3, 2023, the land was officially gifted to BSMC.

    "We are forever grateful to the Peterson and Pavlovick families for this generous gift," says Ron Wiens, CEO of BSMC. "The land is a perfect place for the new clinic building and will save BSMC much time and money as it brings the clinic online later this spring."

    The new clinic building will allow BSMC to expand its current clinic space from four exam rooms to as many as eight and still have additional space for expansion for other services as well. "We hope to add mental health services by recruiting a therapist and possibly a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. In addition, there will be ample space to encourage specialists from the larger cities to come to Big Sandy once or twice a month to provide follow-up care locally rather than having our community residents make the long drive to them," Wiens says. "It's generous donations like this that really can make a significant difference in the healthcare services BSMC can provide to the community."

    The people of Big Sandy built this facility in 1965. 58 years later, the community continues to support the expansion and operation of BSMC; this is why people are the heart of BSMC.

    The Tea at BSMC

      The Tea at BSMC

      The Tea at BSMC Feb 14, 2024

      By Jessica Ophus

      2024 at BSMC is certainly off to a good start! The electric panel has finally been installed at the new clinic building. After waiting for over a month, progress can continue again. Hopefully, it will all work like it should and heat will be flowing this week. From there, the building needs a good cleaning and inspection, then the move in can begin! While all of that is happening across the street, inside the current building, the dining room expansion will be taking place. It should only be a 2-3 week project, but the results will prove useful for a lifetime. When this part of the building was built in 1985 the ADA rules were different, and in general the equipment was smaller. Being at full capacity with a majority of our folks using walkers or wheelchairs, and all of them wanting to eat in the dining room for meals and/or attend activities, it requires some strategic planning and a good bit of patience to get everyone into the room and positioned in a way that everyone fits. This project will remove the wall between the doorways of the main dining room and will also expand the doorway going into the adjacent space. Korb construction started on the project on February 13.

      BSMC has also received a grant from AgWest Farm Credit to purchase three new AEDs. One of these will go into the new clinic building, and one will replace the device in the basement, as well as one replacing the device in the wellness center. While everyone hopes an AED is never needed, it is an important life-saving device in any emergency situation.

      The facility has also filled the open Midlevel position! Joe Essperson, PA, husband of Tenley (Keller) Essperson, will begin working at BSMC in May. His backgrounds is in Adult critical care situations, so he will begin his training here with time in the clinic and the ER learning the ropes. When he has completed that training, he will begin seeing patience, as always you will ll see updates of both the dining room expansion as well as when Joe is ready to begin to build his practice.

      We welcomed Cheyenne Feltz, PNP a couple of months ago and she continues to build clientelle in her mental health practice. We are so fortunate to have someone right here in town to help us with mental well being. She is still accepting new clients, and can do telehealth appointments if you'd prefer to stay home while under her care and still reap the benefits of working together!

      The CEO, Ron Wiens has been conducting a Community Health Needs assessment. After reaching out to some specific focus groups, he has gathered the following data: 91% of high school students believe Big Sandy is a good place to live, despite the 62% of people that feel alcohol abuse is the most prevalent risky behavior in our community. Now that he has collected all of this insight, he will begin creating a plan of action. The idea is that Big Sandy Medical Center will help to mitigate the problems the community feels the strongest about. All of this will be available for public viewing later in the summer, after the Board has approved the 3-year plan.

      In the January Board Meeting, new officers were voted into place. Bob Nelson is now the sitting Chariman, Anna Bold is the Vice-Chair, and Ann Quinn will sit as the secretary. Remember the Board meets every third Thrusday of the month and meetings are always open to the public.

      Finally, the Leadership team at BSMC will begin a series of Leadership training this month. This training should help the team work better together, be stronger when working independently, and improve the working environment in the facility as a whole.

      Keep an eye on the Facebook page and the website for further updates and all the recent happenings at BSMC. We look forward to all the good things that are coming this year and thank you for continuing to be the heart of BSMC.

      The Tea at BSMC

      The Tea at BSMC Dec 6, 2023

      By Jessica Ophus

      It’s time for the tea at BSMC. What a busy couple of months down at the Medical Center! Among normal operations in the kitchen, Johnson Controls was in the building last week to finish installing the sprinkler heads in the new dry storage and walk-in cooler areas. That was the last of the items on the to-do list so the kitchen remodel is officially complete! Progress on the installation of the new generator has been less successful. Northwestern Energy pushed back the date on getting the new 2-inch gas line installed to fuel the machine. Hopefully, by mid-December, that will be done and then the generator can be connected to the new transfer switch. After that, some testing will need to take place and then, finally, it can be brought online!
      The weather has been favorable, not only for the sake of not needing the bigger generator, but also for progress on the new clinic building. The lack of snow and above freezing temperatures has allowed for the pouring of the sidewalks, and the paving of the parking areas. The entry ramps and stairs were installed last week. On the interior of the building, the crew has been able to make the repairs needed after the process of transporting, storing, and moving the modular units into place. There was a wall damaged in the process, some ceiling tiles that were stained/damaged, and some general scuffs on the floors and walls from the process that have all been repaired. Next summer, the Medical Center will paint the exterior of the building, and add some trees/shrubs where needed to restore the curb appeal after construction is complete.
      The Annual Board Meeting also took place last Thursday. There were 31 people present at the meeting, including the current Board and team from Cypress. CEO, Ron Wiens offered his report. Recognizing generous donors in the community that are helping to make these improvements a reality. Especially, Lance Peterson and Michelle Kaufman and family for donating the lot where the new clinic building now sits and Louis Beirwagen for donating funds for upcoming facility improvements. Upcoming projects will include the clinic space remodel and installation of the CT machine, removing two walls in the dining room area to create more space, replacing the hand railings, and removing the carpet on the walls in the patient room hallways. Other projects under consideration include updating the counters, sinks, bathrooms, and flooring of the patient rooms, and replacing all the windows and installing air conditioner units to the rooms. The facility is also considering upgrades to the HVAC system and replacing the nurse call light system in the near future. Strategic goals not only include completing those projects, but also obtaining funding and staff to get the equipment necessary to start a pain management service, adopting a new model to improve patient experience and organizational culture, provide leadership training to all Department leaders and providers, conduct a community needs assessment (be on the lookout for more details about how to get involved with that), and fully integrate new software to improve accountability, communication, and record keeping in the facility. The Medical Guild President Lisa Sipler offered her report, with the Rummage sale income surpassing previous years at over $10,000. The Guild does plan to donate monies to the dining room expansion. The Annual Financial Audit report will be presented at the December meeting as it is not complete at this time. The By Law Committee had no updates as the contracted attorney brought on to help improve and update our by-laws suggested a special meeting to discuss prior to voting. That meeting date will be announced after the new year. Finally, the nominating committee presented the candidates for the open seat on the Board of Directors. Dr. Karen Baumann, Ken Denning, and Harvey Keller were the candidates. 128 total votes were casted, 114 of them being absentee ballots. The spot will be held by Dr. Karen Baumann. Harvey, who has sat on the board since 2011 said, “It’s been a fun ride. It’s great to see more community involvement. I wish Karen and the Board success and cannot wait to see these projects come to fruition.” The officers will be voted on at the December meeting. That concluded the Annual Board Meeting. Thank you to all those who took the time to cast a vote, attend the meeting, and get involved with the happenings at the Big Sandy Medical Center. As Harvey said, it is great to see so much involvement. To maintain an independent facility, it will require community support.
      Inside the facility, like everywhere else, staff are gearing up for Christmas. The holiday season is so special at BSMC. Starting at Halloween where the staff have a costume contest, judged by the Residents (Nursing staff won with “Old McDonald’s Farm” this year. “Sesame Street” and the “Price is Right” was also in the running), shortly after voting the kids are released from school and begin their trick-or-treating with the residents at BSMC. After Halloween, preparations begin for Thanksgiving. A Friendsgiving was hosted this year among staff and residents the week before the holiday, and families were invited to come have dinner with their loved ones on Thanksgiving Day. Now we’re deep into the Christmas season. The schedule of events will be posted to the Facebook page and announced in an article next week. If you or someone you know enjoys playing music or singing, we’d love for you to share your musical talents. Please contact Lisa Sipler for more information.
      If your New Year’s goals are to improve your health, BSMC is still offering free Diabetic Screenings. You can also come to get lab work done without a doctor’s order, find more information on the website at www.bsmc.org. Now is also a great time to schedule your annual appointments and preventative care. We’re here to serve all your healthcare needs. As always, thank you for being the heart of BSMC.

      The Tea at BSMC

      The Tea at BSMC September 27, 2023

      By Jessica Ophus

      Mark Twain said the secret of making progress is to get started. While it took longer than anticipated, the crew has begun the ground work on the site for the new clinic building. They are optimistic that they will have the foundation ready and the building moved over within the next eight weeks. After the building is in place, the modular building crew will marry the seams of the five individual pieces so it is one solid building. From there, plumbing and electric will be hooked up and the furniture installed. Weather permitting, sidewalks will be poured and a parking lot paved. Many steps, many moving pieces, but constant progress with the ultimate goal being a standalone Rural Health Clinic available to better meet your healthcare needs.
      Having this new building will increase the amount of space we have to provide patient services. Not just the CT machine coming, but in bringing in specialized care, pain management services, and mental health services. We are thrilled to bring on Cheyenne Feltz Thompson, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. She will begin accepting clients as soon as the clinic building is operational. You will make appointments with her in the usual fashion through the clinic receptionist. We are thrilled to be offering this desperately needed service right here in Big Sandy. We will share more details about Cheyenne in the future.
      The addition on the kitchen is almost complete. The kitchen crew moved into their newly finished space almost two weeks ago as the final touches are being made on storage solutions and walk-in coolers. On behalf of the kitchen staff, administration, and all of us at BSMC we wish to extend a heartfelt thank you to the Catholic Church for allowing us to use their kitchen during this process. The dietary staff handled the back and forth of cooking, hauling, and serving like professionals. Thank you to Patti, Sierra, Karla, Jamie, and Lindsey for working so hard during this transition. The kitchen has also recently seen a transition in their staff as well. The dietary manager, Star Taylor has accepted the Accounts Payable position. Filling the manager shoes will be Sierra Grimm. Aubrey Douglas has also been hired as a full-time dietary aide. There is one more dietary position still open, if you're interested in joining the team, contact Sierra or drop an application off at BSMC.
      In other transitions in the facility, Brittany Sherburn has been welcomed into the Rehab and Wellness Center Manager position. As she gets settled into the role, more serious discussions about making the wellness center available to the community have been taking place. Nothing is finalized at this time, but you'll be the first to know when those details are available! For all your PT needs, please reach out to Brittany at 406.378.3931.
      Other job openings currently available include Outpatient registration and Patient Accounts Representative, Housekeeping and CNA positions; we continue to look for a full-time mid-level provider. You will find more information on the NEW Big Sandy Medical Center website. While you're visiting the site, be sure to check out the Board of Directors page for information on how you can become a Board Member. There will be two seats available for election this year. One 3-year term, and one 1-year term. If you're interested in having your name on the ballot, reach out to a member of the nominating committee, Danielle Weaver, Jim Ray, or Ann Quinn. Elections will take place at the annual meeting to be held in November. The next regular Board Meeting is September 28 at 5:30 pm, the public is welcome to attend.
      Don't forget the Medical Guild Rummage sale is coming up October 5th and 6th! You can begin to drop rummage off on Monday morning to the Jerry Martin Memorial Hall. All rummage must be there by 1 pm Wednesday. Volunteers are always welcome as well. Keep an eye out for future updates as we continue to make progress in and around the facility. As always, thanks for being the heart of BSMC.

      The Tea at BSMC

      The Tea at BSMC August 24, 2023

      By Jessica Ophus

      As always, the summer months seem to fly by and this year is no different. Harvest is in full swing and our children are already back in school. Soon loud cheers will echo across football fields and volleyball courts. What a great time of the year!

      And what a great time at Big Sandy Medical Center! In just a few short weeks, we will have a brand-new kitchen with ample food storage space and food prep areas. Korb construction has been working continuously, despite shipping delays, to keep this project moving. The addition is complete and now the "finish work" is happening on the inside of the addition and old kitchen space. The dietary staff have been working hard to keep the folks fed, making trips to and from the Catholic church multiple times a day to prepare meals and wash dishes.

      By mid-September, work will begin on the installation of the modular clinic building. After the building is in place, it will take a couple of months to get ready for occupancy. Most of the furniture has been delivered and of course many items from the current space will move over. Once the current clinic space is cleared and the new clinic building is operational, the remodeling of the old clinic space will start. The completion goal is February of next year. This will give the community access to a CT Scanner and create space for additional future services.

      September will also bring changes to the Wellness Center as plans are taking shape to open the gym to community memberships just in time to start an indoor exercise program. As those plans get finalized, more details will be shared. You will also be pleased to hear about the addition of a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner to come in October. Again, more details to come as the time gets near.

      August saw many young faces in the BSMC building. A Babysitter's Training class and a CPR/AED/First Aid class were hosted for children ranging in age from 8-15 years old. Both classes were well attended and enjoyed by the kids. More classes of this nature will be hosted over school breaks and next summer. Other community classes for CPR/AED/First Aid will be available over the winter as well, keep an eye out for those class dates/times in the future.

      BSMC received a grant from AHEC-MSU Bozeman. The monies from this grant are being used to pay for free A1C, or diabetic screenings for members of our community. This test is recommended with your annual labs, however, most insurance companies do not pay for it annually. The A1C shows your average blood sugar levels over the last three months. This information is provided at no cost to you, without needing to see a provider. That information is yours to do as you wish; take it to your primary care provider, keep it for your own records, or make an appointment at BSMC to discuss your results with a provider here.

      Finally, BSMC welcomed two new employees to the team this month. Weslie Taylor will be helping out in the laundry department and Wyatt Phillips will offer his efforts in maintenance. We are grateful to have them aboard. Current open positions at BSMC include, a Full-Time Accounts Payable clerk, a part-time Outpatient Registration and Patient Accounts Representative, a full-time/part-time CNA, and full-time/part-time Dietary Aid. Job applications can be found at www.bsmc.org.

      Many things are changing at BSMC, may you find just as much beauty in it as you do the leaves changing in the fall. Thank you for continuing to chose BSMC for your healthcare needs; it is you, the people that are the heart of BSMC.

      The Tea at BSMC

      The Tea at BSMC July 5, 2023

      By Jessica Ophus

      What's "The Tea"? It is the 411, the low-down, the news, the happenings... it's the latest here at Big Sandy Medical Center. People have always been the heart of BSMC, so you are invited to Tea, right here, with all the latest information about your home town Medical Center.
      If you've drove by the facility recently, you've seen the progress made by Korb Construction on the kitchen addition. The foundation has been poured and they are preparing the external walls. While the final touches are being made to the exterior part of the addition, arrangements will be made to move all of the equipment out of the kitchen in preparation to remove the former exterior wall. During that time, meals for the patients will be prepared elsewhere. If things continue to go smoothly, the crew should be knocking out that wall in the next couple of weeks! Right now, there is not enough space in the kitchen to store the freezers and extra supplies, so the kitchen staff make multiple trips a day to the basement to collect necessities for the day's meals. This addition will provide space for walk in freezers and open up more workspace for the staff. The kitchen provides around 70-80 meals a day for patients and staff. If you'd be interested in being a cook in the kitchen, we're hiring! You can get more information by calling Star at 406.378.3920
      The warmer weather has been welcomed by the patients and staff alike! Enjoying the fresh air in the courtyard has been a daily activity for some patients. Flowers were donated by the Medical Guild and planted by the patients in the raised beds, adding a beautiful pop of color to the space. Multiple community members have also purchased things from the BSMC Amazon Wish List. Items such as a projector and screen, a karakoe machine, bingo cards, craft supplies, memory products, games and exercise items have all been purchased. The list is constantly updated and it is such a nice surprise to see something has been donated by a generous community member. Thank you to do those who have contributed to the wish list! The patients certainly appreciate it!
      In other news, the website for the facility is being completely recreated. It is currently still being created, but will have new features like being able to request appointments online and pay our bill from home. Of course, you can keep doing these things with a phone call, or stopping into the facility, but for some, the ability to do it from their phone will be beneficial. You'll find photos of the happenings around the facility, job opportunities, and information on upcoming meetings and classes posted there.
      For example, classes like the Babysitter's Training and CPR. There has been a lot of interest in the Babysitter's Training! A class date will be set soon, those on the list will be notified of the date first. To be put on the list for the class, please fill out the form located at https://forms.gle/8jsjBZwzUomLxdF99. You can also find this form located on the Facebook page, and when the website is live, it will be there too!
      The job opportunities you'll see listed on the site include a full or part-time position in Laundry, and full- or part-time CNA positions, and the above mentioned position for a cook. All of these positions come with benefits and paid-time off. Call Karma at 406.378.3906 for further information.
      Please note, there will be no board meeting in the month of July. The Board of Directors will get a month off to spend time with their families and enjoy the longer days before the hustle and bustle of the school year is knocking at our doors again. It's hard to imagine, but it is already time to be thinking about sports physicals! Call the clinic to get yours scheduled today. As always, thanks for being the heart of BSMC.

      The Tea at BSMC

      The Tea at BSMC May 17, 2023

      By Jessica Ophus

      Hats off to Lisa Sipler, and all the staff at BSMC that helped make Hospital Week one for the books. The week kicked off with Neon Day. A day full of colors as bright as the smiles on everyone's faces. The patients got to participate in neon painting with Roberta Edwards and played bingo that afternoon. They were joined by many folks from the community and had a blast. Tuesday was Disney Day. Everyone enjoyed visits from Micky and Mini Mouse, Cruella Deville, Doc the Dwarf, and others. After a corndog lunch, everyone settled in the "theater" for a showing of Mary Poppins with bags full of popcorn. It was sure hard to see anyone on Wednesday, as everyone was in camouflage! The patients spent the morning playing a version of whack-a-mole, in which the moles were staff and their children! It was quite a laugh. That afternoon was spent hunting sloths, skunks, koalas, and alligators. The following day staff and patients alike were adorned in their best cowboy/farmer attire. For most, this is normal "daily" wear when not at work, but others kicked it up a notch with plastic pistols and rakes and trowels. A delicious Chuck Wagon lunch was served before the "horse races" in the afternoon. In a horse race, each patient gets a staff member jockey to ride their stick horse across the board. They roll a dice, and their horse gets to move forward the respective amount of spaces, but only after performing activities such as yodeling or bucking around the track. This year's winner was Betty, with her Jockey Dave riding the horse Betsy. The week wrapped up with Rainbow Day and the Ice Cream Social. For the last three years, due to the pandemic, a parade was held in place of the ice cream social. It was so good to bring it back and welcome the community back to the facility. We sure enjoyed getting to see everyone and share in a sweet treat and fellowship. The weather cleared up just long enough to enjoy the courtyard and was a perfect way to wrap up the festive week. Be sure to check out the Big Sandy Medical Center Facebook page for photos of all of the happenings of Hospital Week and all our other activities!
      Those that attended the social were sure to notice that construction has finally begun on the kitchen remodel project. The crew began the dirt work last week and is making steady progress. The working plan for the project is to have the addition built and the shell completed before beginning any demolition on the current building. This will help ensure the least amount of disruption in how meals are prepared for the patients and staff alike. We again extend gratitude to the BSMC Foundation and the Medical Guild, as well as the other donors in the community who have made this project possible.
      You may have also noticed that things are happening on the lot where the modular clinic will go. The buildings that were there were offered on silent bid to the staff with stipulations to have them removed by May 1. The purchasers honored those agreements, and now the next steps can be taken. While the snow hindered progress this spring, the goal is to have the clinic up and running before Old Man Winter returns.
      The facility continues to await the arrival of the State Surveyors and remains diligent in being prepared for their appearance. There was certainly a sigh of relief when they didn't show during Hospital Week. While they of course are welcome anytime, it would have been hard to enjoy the festivities with the leadership team having to work with the surveyors. The date of their arrival is always unknown, and they are usually in the building for 2-4 days observing usual operations, interviewing staff and patients, and reviewing patient charts.
      Finally, you may have noticed some new faces around at BSMC. We have welcomed Chris O'dell as the Facility Manager, Maryetta Engle and the Financial Controller, and Jeff Richter and Vesuvio Reid to our housekeeping departments. We are so grateful to have such a wonderful team of staff helping to keep the place running smoothly. As we look back on Hospital Week, Nurse's Day, and another long winter, we are reminded just how lucky we are to live in the community of Big Sandy. This medical center exists for you, the people. Thank you for being the heart of BSMC.

      The Tea at BSMC

      The Tea at BSMC Feb 22, 2023

      By Jessica Ophus

      What's "The Tea"? It is the 411, the lowdown, the news, the happenings... it's the latest here at Big Sandy Medical Center. People have always been the heart of BSMC, so you are invited to Tea, right here, with all the latest information about your hometown Medical Center.
      We're almost through February and just a little over a month from the first day of spring. We were able to come out of "outbreak" status at the end of January, and due to the low numbers of Covid cases are in a "low" risk status. This means masks are optional inside the facility! Roberta Edwards has brought some beautiful craft activities to the folks to celebrate the Day of Love. The residents also enjoyed many visitors and lots of love on Valentine's Day. Families came to celebrate with their parents and spouses, some ladies from the Methodist Church popped in for a visit, and some young men from the FFA Chapter hand delivered Valentine cards to the folks here. There is never a shortage of love and care inside these walls, but the extra smiles are always welcomed and appreciated.
      Progress on preparing the new clinic building and subsequently starting the remodeling project is sitting in the hands of Mother Nature. The next step for the clinic is to survey the property and get the gravel moved in before getting the building set and put together. However, that cannot happen until the snow has melted. There was a team in the current building gathering data to create 3D images of the building to aid in creating plans for the remodel. The goal of the remodeling project will be to make room for the CT machine and provide better use of the space that will be left vacant after the clinic moves into its new space.
      The kitchen remodel project is coming along at a slightly faster pace. The quotes for equipment have been received and approved. The construction quote is still pending. Plans are in the works for keeping resident meals on the table during the process. The generator continues to wait for final parts before becoming operational.
      With the help of the Montana Hospital Association, the facility brought in a Compliance Consultant in the first week of February. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requires specific standards be met by every facility who provides care to people using Medicare and/or Medicaid services. These standards include everything from fire safety to infection control to direct patient care practices. The information provided by the Consultant helps us to identify areas that require more diligence from our staff and areas where current practices are surpassing the expectations of CMS. As a Critical Access Hospital, it is expected that annual surveys will be completed. The Covid-19 Pandemic caused some disruption to that routine, but the facility does expect a survey from CMS "anytime now."
      While the facility continually works at maintaining CMS standards, the number one goal is to always serve our patients in the best way possible. It has become clear that an area of frustration for you, the patient, is the billing process. To mitigate that frustration and improve our service, a Billing Specialist will be on site to help improve the process. She will assess and re-educate all staff in every step of the journey from registration to when the patients receive a statement from the facility. She has been working with the staff in the billing and medical records departments for some time now and is coming to the facility with a deep understanding of our facility, our systems, and our patients. We thank you for your patience as we continue to find ways to improve your experience here at Big Sandy Medical Center. Thank you for being the heart of BSMC.

      The Tea at BSMC

      The Tea at BSMC Jan 25, 2023

      By Jessica Ophus

      Did you see last week's article about the generous donation of land for the new clinic building? It is so good to see the community continuing to support this locally owned facility! As the new building gets established and services begin to take place there, the folks in the lab will be making some adjustments to their locale as well. The new clinic space will allow for the current facilities to be used very differently. Dave Korkowski and Mike Mebruer will take it all in stride.
      Having the lab here in town is beneficial, not just when you are injured or ill, but for your routine wellness checks as well. January is National Thyroid Awareness Month. More than 12% of people in the United States have a thyroid condition. The hormone secreted by the thyroid gland affects every other cell in the body, so it is important to monitor and maintain adequate levels. You can get your thyroid levels checked or address any other concerns you or your provider have right here at the BSMC lab! Lab hours are Monday-Friday from 8 am - 5 pm and someone is on call 24/7/365 for all the immediate needs in the Emergency Department.
      Dave is the Laboratory Manager. He has been here in Big Sandy for almost 2 years and is not only working in the lab, but also shares the Infection Control responsibilities. He has been a Laboratory Technician since 1992, obtaining his training while he served in the US Army Airborne Infantry in the famed 82d Airborne Division. Among his adventures he spent 10 years in Alaska. Immediately prior to coming to BSMC he worked as the Laboratory Director at Northeast Montana Health Services in Wolf Point and Poplar, MT for seven years. When managing two laboratories became more strain and struggle than pleasure, he decided it was time for a change and accepted the open position here at BSMC. He spends a lot of time reading and enjoys shooting and camping as well. Having lived in McKees Rocks, PA, Dave is an avid Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates fan and enjoys watching them play. He says he comes to work, "because I have to... But truthfully, I enjoy making a difference in people's lives; both people I work with and the community I live in."
      Dave's partner in crime is Mike Mebruer. Mike is a Clinical Laboratory Scientist who has been at BSMC for one and a half years. He is no stranger to the lab though, having worked for 29 years in the field. Mike is originally from Baton Rouge, LA but he is adjusting to the cold weather and higher altitudes of Montana living. He loves to go fishing and enjoys a good weekend adventure with his family; there's no shortage of opportunities around here for that! Mike came to Big Sandy as a traveler after having spent some time in Tucson, AZ and he decided to stay here and bring his family along! He says, "I really enjoy the people that I work with and fell in love with the kindness and generosity of the people of Big Sandy. I do like being a part of the community and taking care of the people who live here."
      That's another person whose heart was stolen by the people of Big Sandy. No wonder people are the heart of BSMC!

      The Tea at BSMC

      The Tea at BSMC Jan 4, 2023

      By Jessica Ophus

      There is always a refreshing feeling of renewal with the turning of the calendar. Starting the new year brings about renewed energy and commitment to goals, plans for the coming year, and a desire to bring about change in your daily life.
      It is no different inside the walls of BSMC. There is certainly an air of change floating around and all the excitement that comes with it. One could say the facility is adopting the "New Year, New Us" motto that is so commonly expressed this time of year. With the new clinic building, the CT, the potential for new providers and services, there is a different kind of wind in the sails of BSMC. At the helm of the ship through these upcoming changes is CEO Ron Wiens. Ron is new to the facility as of Oct 2022. He accepted the position of CEO after coming on as an Interim CEO last summer and will be celebrating his 6-month anniversary with the facility on January 11. He said the environment of the facility and the town of Big Sandy encouraged him to join the crew permanently and gladly accepted the invitation to stay.
      Ron and his wife, Kim currently reside in Helena, MT; he commutes to Big Sandy during the work week and home to Helena for the weekends. Prior to working here at BSMC he was the CEO at Shodair Hospital for 16 years. Mr. Wien's hospital experience does not begin and end with his time at Shodair, he also worked as the CFO for the hospital in Libby MT for 17 years. He spent about 3.5 years working at a CPA firm in Billings prior to that. His working history is a great asset to the facility as it embarks on some substantial changes in facilities, services, and appearance in the coming months.
      While he is a Michigan native, he enjoys much of what Montana has to offer and is happy to call Montana home. On his time off you may find him enjoying a good hike, birdwatching, biking, or appreciating the local wildlife and landscape. He also has a 10-year-old granddaughter that occupies his time frequently, with no objections from him!
      When asked why he continues to come to work every day, this is what Ron had to say,
      "I often remind myself that nearly 60 years ago, a group of Big Sandy residents with a pioneering spirit of sacrifice and hard work, came together to create a healthcare organization to meet the healthcare needs of the community. At some point they passed the torch on to us to be good stewards of what they created and to continue the vision they had for this place. This is a huge honor and responsibility. So, every day that I come to work, I remind myself of this stewardship role and the accountability I have to past generations for the work being done at Big Sandy Medical Center."
      What a great perspective to hold when coming into a new role in a new community! When you see him out and about, be sure to say hello and help him feel welcome. After all, it is the people that are the heart of BSMC; staff and patrons alike.

      The Tea at BSMC

      The Tea at BSMC Dec 14, 2022

      By Jessica Ophus

      Often when people think of any medical facility, the first people that come to mind are the doctors and nurses providing care there. It makes sense as these staff often have the most contact with the patients. However, there are so many "behind the scenes" people that are involved in your healthcare. That is true at BSMC too. This week, we feature the staff of the business office. This team handles all the billing, deals with insurance, manages the phone, and keeps the facility operational!
      Along with Ron Wiens, CEO and Karma Hale, HR Director, the business office is home to Brittany Sherburn and Sarah Schlepp.
      Brittany is a familiar face at BSMC as she worked in medical records for four years prior to working at the school the last few years. She returned to the facility in June of this year to become the Accounts Payable Clerk. She does a great job making sure the bills are paid and the lights stay on. A Big Sandy native, Brittany loves to run, and she enjoys listening to music or podcasts. Otherwise, she is spending time with her family and friends.
      The Director of Finance is Sarah Schlepp. Sarah lives in White Sulpher Springs and has been working here, whether in person or remotely, for 11 months. She has also worked as a CPA at a firm in Bozeman (She says, "Go Cats!") for two years prior to starting in her role here. How did Sarah get here from White Sulpher? She heard about the job through her local hospital and felt the call to contribute to a community, much like the one she grew up in. Her time in the office doesn't prevent her from still enjoying the outdoors. She likes to golf and ski, has two dogs to walk with and gets back to help on the ranch when she is able. She also enjoys reading and board games if the weather outside is not enjoyable. Sarah has a true passion for numbers and says, "The thing I enjoy most about my job is that I can spend all day working with numbers while helping behind the scenes to support all of the great staff at BSMC."
      No office staff is complete without an HR Director. Karma Hale wears that hat these days. She handed over her role as the Accounts Payable Clerk and became the HR Director just a little over a year ago, though she has over 15 years HR experience. She has worked at BSMC for seven years and continues to do payroll and is the Credentialing Officer for the facility. Karma has lived in Big Sandy for more than a decade and enjoys crafting and creating Karma's Kandies on her days off. She also enjoys time with her grandbabies.
      The facility is currently in "outbreak status." To qualify for outbreak status, there must be one positive case of Covid amongst one resident OR one employee that is involved in direct patient care. To get off outbreak status, there must be 14 consecutive days without a positive Covid test among the residents AND employees. During outbreak, visitation is still allowed, but visitors are asked to wear an N95 mask while in the building. One will be provided for you if needed. As always, if you do not feel well, we ask that you stay home. The Clinic and Emergency Room continue with normal operations. The clinic is open Monday-Friday, 8-5; appointments can be made by calling 406.378.2189. The Emergency Room is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
      As planning continues for the kitchen remodel and the new clinic building you will continue to get updated here at "The Tea." As always, thanks for being the heart of BSMC.