Community hospital continues to provide quality healthcare service

By Michael Sterchi and Parker Powell

  Prairie Community Hospital, built in 1969, is a Critical Access Hospital (CAH) with a  22 swing-bed capacity. Traditionally a long-term care facility, it is now able to “swing” between nursing, skilled and acute care beds. The hospital has 46 employees, with 25 directly involved with patient care. Last November the hospital added one acute care bed, which has greatly improved the hospital’s service.

The hospital has a full time lab and x-ray service. The recent addition of a laboratory “Picolo” machine provides six panels of lab data, thus providing all blood tests except the most exotic. Lab service is available 24/7. Fulltime x-rays are available, which are sent digitally to Glendive Medical Center for final reading. The emergency room is fully equipped with the latest technology. Transport and care of patients is carried out by the EMT service by ground and arrangement for fixed wing air transport is available. Agreements with the children’s hospital in Denver, the burn center in Colorado and Utah provide referral care. Allergy shots, IV therapy and physical therapy are also available.
The annual budget is about 2.5 million dollars, with 75 percent coming from medicare, medicaid and insurance payments, with grants, loans and the hospital foundation supplying the additional needed funds. Medicare cuts of 2 percent by the end of this year will make it harder to operate. The hospital runs on a less than 1 percent profit margin to cover loans and unexpected expenses. The mil levee covers only about $150,000 of hospital costs.
Recent costs have included $15,000 for the acute bed, which was funded by the Prairie Community Hospital Foundation. An energy efficient grant is pending to renovate the emergency entrance and seems to be secure. In 2009 $50,000 was spent to repair the boiler, eventually the entire boiler will need replacement at a cost of approximately $1 million. In 2009 a major roof leak required repair at a cost of $180,000, - payed for with a loan that is still outstanding. By 2014 a mandated sprinkler system will have to be installed inside the facility at an unknown cost. The government is also mandating that electronic health records will have to be implemented in the near future at a cost into the hundreds of thousands.
The hospital remains financially viable with a 97 percent occupancy rate, with the hospital foundation providing a valuable service. For example, the hospital foundation funded the new lab machine at a cost of $15,000.
Continued support by Prairie County residents is needed for the hospital though approval of taxation levees and generous contributions and utilization of services. Prairie County should be proud of their local community hospital.

Published March 28, 2012

Article Type: 
Guest Opinion


How would you feel about a four-day school week in Terry?: