50 Beds, a Clinic and a Ski Hill

Tom Zimmerman

I just ventured out to a rural area of our state to visit a customer’s hospital site. They enjoy a picturesque setting, just off the interstate and nestled in a valley beside the region’s largest river. It’s beautiful, if not somewhat isolated compared to our larger cities. The thought did cross my mind – how do you make a living out here? For example, it’s a 45 minute drive to the ‘nearby’ university town. And that’s where they helicopter trauma patients when necessary.

My curiosity piqued, I parked in the convenient outdoor lot (no parking pavilion necessary) and stepped into the spacious, sparkling atrium lobby. The ladies’ volunteer group had hot, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies for sale and it smelled heavenly. (Note-to-self for the long drive home…) Security was minimal and friendly, and I got my visitor badge along with suggestions for a more scenic return route via the nearby river ferry.

My tour guide, the Director of Medical Imaging, was quite proud of this like-new facility – and justifiably so. There is much, much more to their enterprise than meets the eye. In fact, all of my expectations were surpassed by what I learned during the next couple of hours.

I had incorrectly categorized them as a “50-bed hospital.” The Director’s tour narrative helped me understand the reverse sequence of events. A clinic was first constructed at the present location more than a decade ago. The adjacent hospital followed several years later, replacing a nearby, century-old facility. Together, they prefer the less restrictive title of “Healthcare Services” for their shared location.

Both are now teeming with state of the art equipment and an impressive diversity of more than 25 service areas that include surgery, ICU, laboratory, cardiology, endocrinology, neurology, pulmonology and urgent care. Tastefully decorated imaging suites support in- and out-patient exams with CT, MR, Ultrasound, Rad, Interventional, Nuclear Medicine and Breast Imaging.

The Director had a bemused smile as I asked about exam volumes, radiology staff, occupancy rates and competition. There was no hiding my “where does all this business come from?” look. Obviously, they must earn their fair share of referrals by providing excellent care on a continuous basis. And there’s something to be said for the quality of life in this area of the state – they’re able to attract top-notch care givers. He also walked me to the “back door” of the facility and pointed across a long, grassy meadow.

Just up the slope is another very large, multi-wing contemporary building. It’s home to independent, assisted living and acute care senior residents. Running unseen beneath the grassy meadow is a heated underground tunnel. It provides easy, all-weather access to the healthcare facility’s services, including physical, occupational and respiratory therapy. People aren’t just driving to this healthcare facility, they’re moving in next to it. And there are plans under consideration to expand clinical offices near that grassy meadow.

Lastly, the Director pointed in the direction of a much steeper hill, some miles in the distance. I had driven past it as I turned off the interstate. The downhill ski resort. Turns out that the ER, radiology and sports medicine teams have a lively surge in visits during the winter months.

They’re not trying to be the largest player in the region. They don’t have to be. They’ve been present – in various forms – for more than 100 years. Quality care, quality of life for the care team, and an obvious pride and investment in the setting and assets that make it all work. What a great reminder that bigger isn’t always better.

At least that’s what I thought as I ate fresh baked chocolate chip cookies on the ferry trip back across the river.

Have you had a similar experience? Please do share your own insights. I’ll write more on this in the future.

Be encouraged in all you do!

Tom Z

One thought on “50 Beds, a Clinic and a Ski Hill

  1. Hi Tom, Love the insights you provide from healthcare providers and experts. Did the director define any challenges with respect to accessing historical patient information or sharing their information with supporting healthcare service providers? What problem can we solve for them?

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