Public forum updates SWHC consolidation

Southwest Healthcare Services hosted a public forum at City Hall on Aug. 21 for a follow-up meeting regarding the future of the hospital/clinic and long-term care facility.

Posted on August 31, 2012

First introduced to the public last November, SWHS continues to study the efficiencies of campus consolidation.

The primary focus of the meeting was to update the Bowman and surrounding communities on the building project which creates a new hospital/clinic building that would be attached to the existing long term care facility. The overall benefits include accessibility, improved services, workflow efficiencies, safer patient handling and overall long term investment in healthcare services in Bowman County. The meeting also sought to address any public concerns and distribute factual information regarding SWHS commitment to the community.

Becky Hansen, long-term local resident recently promoted to CEO of Southwest Healthcare, began the meeting by thanking the community for coming and introducing John and Alyson McLean, from Spokane-based Blue Room Architecture and Design who specialize in rural healthcare facilities across several western states. The firm reinforced a commitment to local business involvement during the design and construction process.

“I grew up in a town just like Bowman and understand that every dollar counts.” said McLean.

John McLean shared the latest designs for Southwest Healthcare Services which remain largely consistent with the concepts presented in November. The new hospital/clinic would be built on one-floor on the east side of the long-term care campus with the option to build a second story, if needed, in the future. Sunny apartments will be relocated to the west side of the campus connected to the north wing of the long-term care facility.

“Independent living is definitely a community service we feel strongly about preserving on our campus if at all possible”, stated Hansen.

The McLeans stated that Southwest Healthcare is in the process of collecting data for an application that will be submitted in late November to apply for a low interest loan from USDA. “We would expect to have approval for this funding in the spring. If all goes well, the current plan is to have the building project completed by December of 2014,” the y pointed out.

In response to comments regarding possible chapel demolition for a covered drop off area near the new facility entry, McLean proposed the question, “Should we preserve the existing chapel or should we create a new space that is more efficient and functional? While I truly appreciate the chapel’s design, we have to focus on functionality and serving the community’s future needs. The future of the existing chapel needs to be a community-based decision. ”

He emphasized that the money from USDA is only available for use with the hospital portion of the project and could not be used for the chapel. At this time, we are still looking into different options for a chapel to best serve the community, residents, and patients. “We’re asking the community to express their feelings on the topic.” Says McLean, “…consistently we have heard the need for a chapel rather than a commitment to that specific structure.” Local community and board members have supported the need for a more accessible and functional spiritual environment on campus.

Among a number of questions asked by attendees, parking seemed to be the biggest concern. John explained the plan accommodates parking for guests in the front of the building and that the staff will be encouraged to park in the back of the facility, where the new surface lots are planned. “A number of staff are excited about campus consolidation and the ability to walk to work if they aren’t having to scramble between different facilities all day.” said Hansen “…we’re hoping to promote healthy lifestyles for those who are able to consider walking to work, even if just occasionally.”

Another concern brought up was staffing for the new project. Hansen explained that Southwest Healthcare Services paid $900,000 in agency staffing (for higher-priced traveling RNs and CNAs who otherwise have no connection to the community) in 2011. This building project will assist in reducing agency staffing but is not anticipated to reduce any of our local Southwest Healthcare staff.

“Staff have been highly involved in the design process through a series of workshops to create better working environments for themselves. They are excited about being participants in their own future here in Bowman County,” she said.


Editor’s note: Through out the project, Southwest Healthcare Services will endeavor to keep the community informed of upcoming changes. If you have any question about the building project please call, Southwest Healthcare Services at 523-321