By Dr. Jeff Daniels EBS Medical Columnist

When the paper that printed my weekly column for more than 20 years closed its doors several weeks ago, I thought my writing career had come to an abrupt end.

But I agreed with the staff at Explore Big Sky that my column would continue enlightening and entertaining readers by appearing in EBS, which is now the area’s only local news and lifestyle paper. This is just one of many changes happening in our community.

The Medical Clinic of Big Sky, the community’s only local source of medical care for many years, will continue to independently provide accurate, convenient, and economical medical care to local residents and visitors. How will we be able to do this with the addition of Bozeman Health’s Big Sky Medical Center in December?

In a place like Big Sky, where the population is generally healthy but likely to pursue activities that are prone to cause acute injuries, such skiing and snowboarding, the need for convenient access to unscheduled medical care is of paramount importance. This includes locals as well as visitors who are far from their primary physicians.

Urgent care facilities are not open 24 hours a day, but generally operate during “business hours.” The Medical Clinic of Big Sky has adapted over the years to the pace of this mountain community by being open seven days a week during the ski season.

However, unlike other urgent care offices, we have always kept 24/7 services available by a phone call, as many of you have experienced first hand. As Big Sky enters a new era of medical delivery, we’ll emphasize the urgent care nature of the practice.

The advantages of having a hospital open in our community cannot be overstated. A CT and MRI for evaluation of trauma here in Big Sky will be positive additions, drastically reducing the number of ambulance rides to Bozeman.

This will also free up our fire department, EMTs and paramedics from long journeys through Gallatin Canyon. Having a lab in Big Sky will cut the wait time for important tests, and expansion of the family practice facilities will certainly help local families.

In most major cities and towns in the U.S., and even in Bozeman, hospitals and their ERs are balanced by urgent care centers. These smaller facilities take the pressure off ERs by filtering out non-emergency cases. In most communities, there is a win-win balance with these two types of facilities operating collectively.

The Medical Clinic of Big Sky and the Big Sky Medical Center will both serve the entire community. We’ll both have to adapt, and in many instances, work together. The Medical Clinic’s two offices, in the Mountain Village and in Town Center, will be expanding hours as we move into the ski season.

In future columns, I will continue to inform you about the medical problems we encounter on the ski hill, on mountain bike trails, on the Gallatin River, and from all the other outdoor activities that make Big Sky a great place to live and play.