Big Sandy Medical at the beginning of exciting times

By Zoe Merrill

The new Big Sandy clinic is getting nearer to opening. It's been a nightmare to receive the parts needed for opening. Ron Weins, CEO of Big Sandy Medical Center, said, "We are working on all the cabling for the building. Cabling, like for phones and computers, all that kind of stuff. Some of it's wireless because that connection between our two buildings will be wireless, but hopefully, it will get done next week." He isn't saying when the open house will take place because waiting for the backorder of supplies has been so frustrating. But the day will be soon.

He showed me the blueprint of what they would be doing in the area of the old clinic. The location will house the CT scanner, which has already been bought but not delivered until they have space. Ron is working on other grants, with good responses. He hopes to have an ultrasound machine and a big C arm, which allows for a very precise little radiology picture of the nerves. "We would be the only ones in northwest Montana with that capability. So that'd be very cool." They are on a dream list, and he hopes to find funding for them.

"The ultimate goal is to keep people from having to drive for stuff like nerve emulation. The other thing is, I hear at least a half dozen people say, well, I'm going to Great Falls for this, that, or even Missoula. Sometimes Billings, sometimes Kalispell. The more things that we can offer that are financially feasible to keep people from having to drive because farmers and ranchers have to leave the ranch for a day." Hopefully, they can do some necessary testing here. The old upstairs clinic is going to be full of specialized equipment and a lab draw station, and it's also going to be our outpatient department. There will never be operations in Big Sandy. Ron said, "We have one inpatient bed right by the right nurse's station. That's our negative pressure room. The other bedroom, the next one down, is for outpatients and can be used for patient observation. They've been in the ER; they shouldn't go home yet. We're going to observe for a few hours, okay? When we get to CT, we can rule out a head bleed. Like if someone bumps her head right now, they'd have to go to Havre or Great Falls to get the CT and then stay for a few hours to make sure they don't have a concussion."

He explained, "We can convert any inpatient room into a swing bed. That's why they call it swing beds. It's weird. It's not a bed that swings. It's a bed that we could put a person in from the ER into inpatient, and then they may need skilled services or long-term care. They never have to leave that room, though. We don't have to say, 'You've got to go across the hall to our long-term care bed. It's all the same. Same room, same bed, so they just swing."

Good stuff is happening. They aren't short nurses. "We're pretty good. We raised our wages again and have brought some of the CNAs in house as employees instead of contract. Contracts are pretty expensive. What we need now is a lot of support staff: dietary, maintenance, and groundskeeping. We're offering a really competitive wage of $16 an hour.

Their long-term rooms are full, and there is a waiting list.

It's so positive-a great time to celebrate hospital week.