Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

Seeley-Swan Medical Center 45 Year Anniversary Celebration

Part II


Donna Love

Seeley-Swan Medical Center Sign

SEELEY LAKE - The Seeley-Swan Medical Center Foundation and the Seeley-Swan Hospital District Boards would like to invite the community to an open house at the Medical Center on Thursday, June 30 at 6:00 p.m. to celebrate the 45-Year Anniversary of the Seeley-Swan Medical Center.

The celebration is a perfect time to get the word out that the people in the Seeley Lake area own the Seeley-Swan Medical Center. They pay taxes that helps maintain the clinic, elect the clinic's board and own the building and land. It is also a perfect time to review how the medical center started and how it grew. Last week we reviewed events from the medical center's early beginnings to the year 2000. This week we'll take a look at developments during the past fifteen years.

A Pound of Cure – The Medical Clinic Since 2000

In December of 2000, the newly built Seeley-Swan Medical Center along Highway 83 opened for business. The facility was a greatly needed upgrade from the aging center built in 1974-75. The new lot along the highway was also large enough to accommodate the facility, parking and a new helicopter landing pad but it didn't have room for future expansion.

"It has always been our vision to have a health care campus that could provide medical, dental, and behavioral health care, as well as to sometime eventually have an optometrist and maybe a pharmacy and physical therapy on site with perhaps someday, on some level, an assisted living facility. So the boards watch for opportunities to support future growth," said Tim Love, President of the Medical Center Foundation Board.

In 2006, the opportunity arose for the boards to purchase Lot 4, which is the lot adjacent to, and south of, the existing medical center. Lot 4 was purchased with some donations and with some funds that were held in reserve. It was an investment for the future. No extra taxpayer levy was added or asked for.

With this purchase, the land is in place for any possible future expansion but the boards still wanted to better help the people of the valley with their health care needs.

As early as 2000, they looked into becoming a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), which can offer medical services using a sliding scale in which patients pay what they can afford. They knew this designation could help many in the community but they found out that at that time only one FQHC was allowed per county and Partnership Health Center, which is a FQHC, already existed in Missoula.

In 2005, the boards researched the possibility of the clinic becoming a Partnership Health Center satellite center. Nothing developed from that search at that time but the boards still hoped that it would eventually happen.

"In 2013, the board was looking to expand services, such as dental and behavioral health. We contacted Partnership [Health Center] again, since they provided those services. At that time St. Pats [St. Patrick Hospital] was not looking to make any cuts or adjustments in services [at Seeley-Swan Medical Center]. When we found out that we received the grant monies [for facility expansion] we started having serious talks about how to co-op with all four entities including St. Pats, Partnership, the Medical Foundation and the Hospital District boards. We were a couple of months into those talks when St. Pats shared that they were going to bow out of the medical management because of budget restraints. They felt they were leaving us in good hands [with Partnership Health Center]," Medical Center Board Member, Mary Ann Morin said.

On Jan. 1, 2014 Partnership Health Center became the clinic's new health care provider. Partnership Health Center ensures that accessible, comprehensive primary health care is provided to the medically underserved population in the region, through a partnership of community resources. They can offer payment on a sliding scale.

But this did not change the fact that the Seeley-Swan Medical Center is still owned by the community and overseen by the Seeley-Swan Hospital District Board or that the Foundation's mission is still to raise funds to support medical services. The only change is that Partnership Health Center in Missoula is now the health care provider that hires the medical staff and handles all matters related to patient services, including care, billing and administration.

Partnership Health Center offers dental and behavioral health care, so dental and behavioral health became the major impetus for the recent clinic facility changes and additions.

Beginning in 2014, the Medical Center's expansion began to take shape. Outside, a much needed carport was built to provide safe parking, especially in winter for elderly accessibility. Inside, three dental operatories and lab complete with dental x-ray capabilities, along with dental staff were added. Behavioral Health offices were also added. Regular medical provider space was expanded and a larger conference/class room and an employee break room were added. The reception area was enlarged and updated to meet new privacy requirements and for the comfort of patients. The reception area includes a children's area with game tablets paid for by a donation from the Seeley Lake Elementary Student Body.

"We are very happy that the community and the [Seeley-Swan Medical Center and Foundation] Boards supported the expansion of the clinic in Seeley Lake. We're thrilled with how the patient centered medical home in Seeley has come together. Integrated services are the best care for the patient. Whether it's dental, medical or behavioral health, we hope to provide total care for the whole body," said Kim Mansch, Executive Director of Partnership Health Center in Missoula.

The additions were paid for by a loan from the Montana Board of Investments Intercap Loan Program, along with several large grants. Other individual grants and donations of substantial amounts were also received. Locally, the Seeley Lake Community Foundation, as well as many local clubs, businesses and individuals donated. Every donation no matter how great or small was greatly appreciated and extremely helpful.

Donna Love

The new reception area at the Seeley-Swan Medical Center welcomes patients and helps maintain privacy while getting checked in and out.

"All this was completed again without going to the taxpayers above the three mill levy assessed way back in 1974, which the boards have always been very proud of," Love said.

Stay tuned as your community owned Seeley-Swan Medical Center continues to grow in order to meet your growing needs. Please come and help your Seeley-Swan Medical Center celebrate its 45-Year Anniversary at a Community Open House at the clinic Thursday, June 30, at 6 p.m. Enjoy refreshments, tour the clinic and meet the board members.

Editor's Note: In 2000, when the Seeley-Swan Medical Center moved from north of town to its current location on Highway 83, Donna Love wrote a history of the Seeley-Swan Medical Center. This installment is an addition to her previous history and brings her past article up to date. To read the full Medical Center History visit and click on Other Writings. Then scroll down to "An Apple a Day, A History of the Seeley-Swan Medical Center.


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