Culmination of 15 planning years ‘historic’

By Joseph T. O’Connor EBS Managing Editor
Photos by Mike Chilcoat

BIG SKY – More than 200 Big Sky residents and visitors crowded the atrium in the Bozeman Health Big Sky Medical Center on Dec. 9, for what Bozeman Health interim dyad CEO and President as well as its CFO Gordon Davidson called a “historic event.”

Visitors took guided tours through the 51,625-square-foot facility that includes a six-room emergency department; four-bed inpatient unit; primary care clinic; pharmacy; laboratory services; medevac landing pad; and imaging center with a new cutting-edge MRI scanner.

BSMC is fully operational and began accepting patients Dec. 12.

The welcoming and ribbon-cutting ceremonies culminated a dream that took root during the center’s

Julie Jackson, chair of the Bozeman Health Board of Trustees, addresses the crowd at the Bozeman Health Big Sky Medical Center's grand opening and  ribbon-cutting ceremony Dec. 9.

Julie Jackson, chair of the Bozeman Health Board of Trustees, addresses the crowd at the Bozeman Health Big Sky Medical Center’s grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony Dec. 9.

groundbreaking in May 2014, but one that was planted much earlier, according to Big Sky Resort President and General Manager Taylor Middleton, also the chair of BSMC’s board of managers.

“Sure, two years from moving dirt until this building opened [is] a spectacular timeframe,” Middleton told the crowd in the atrium, “but the board of directors for Bozeman Health has been working on this project for over 15 years.”

After years of planning, Bozeman Health – called Bozeman Deaconess at the time – opened a pharmacy in 2004 in Big Sky Meadow Village then in 2005 bought the land along Lone Mountain Trail where the medical center exists now.

Beginning in 2013, Big Sky community leaders held open forums to discuss options for a hospital in the area, inviting Bozeman Deaconess representatives as well as those from Billings Clinic to participate.

“This is a big deal,” Middleton said. “Within two years we were building a hospital right here in this place where cows, and for that matter, buffalo used to roam.”

Dr. David Chen, BSMC’s chief medical officer, hired five physicians to work out of Big Sky’s facility, including Maren Dunn, D.O.; Mark Siemer, D.O.; Jeremy Mitchell, D.O.; Kirk Weber, M.D., FACEP; and Philip A. Hess, M.D., who will serve as the center’s medical director.

A major benefit to having a medical facility in Big Sky, Hess said, will be speedier medical attention for many ailments. Until now, patients had to travel or be transported to Bozeman for definitive care.

“We’re going to be able to provide care for a lot of people and reduce their travel time,” said Hess, who moved to Big Sky last July and began work at BSMC in August. “The ambulance won’t have to leave Big Sky to take people to Bozeman nearly so often.”

Longtime locals Les Loble and Bob Thompson chatted in front of the facility’s large front windows,

More than 200 Big Sky residents and community leaders turned out for the grand opening.

More than 200 Big Sky residents and community leaders turned out for the grand opening.

[the patient’s] ruminating on the additional benefits to having BSMC in such close proximity to Big Sky’s resort and its neighborhoods. Both retired in Big Sky, they discussed the advantages those of retirement age will see.

“When I was in the fire department we could not administer clot-busting drugs because we didn’t know what condition was,” said Loble, referring to medication administered to stroke patients. “Here, [doctors] will know, so you save a really important hour … in the treatment of the patient. It will reduce the drag on the fire department’s resources.”

BSMC will employ 35-40 individuals to start, Davidson said during his portion of the address, and will operate as a not-for-profit organization to generate funding that it plans to reinvest into the community. In 2015 alone, donors funded the BSMC Phase 1 effort with nearly $3 million through the nonprofit Bozeman Health Foundation.

“Healthcare is not new to us as an organization, but this is a new opportunity to us,” Davidson said. “How we will improve is with feedback, [and] we welcome feedback. Today is about execution. And the execution doesn’t stop today; today is just the start.”

Amanda Eggert contributed to this report.