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Bitterroot Health CEO sees major award as milepost for agency's future

John Bishop
Posted at 6:28 PM, Mar 08, 2022

HAMILTON — The CEO of Bitterroot Health says a new award listing the agency as the fourth-best critical access hospital in the country not only recognizes current accomplishments but is a milepost for the future.

The LOWN Institute award is unique among the awards the Hamilton-based hospital has won in recent years, rating 3,000 hospitals and health care systems on criteria such as social responsibility with regard to cost, healthy outcomes and benefits to a community.

It comes after more than a decade of explosive growth on the hospital campus; a sweeping transformation that's cost tens of millions of dollars. Bishop says the latest milestone comes on the "shoulders" of many others' hard work.

"So it's nice to have a marker at this point to say, hey, you know all the investments in the last decade-plus and recently in the last few years with new services, have pushed the organization forward."

But the expansion isn't done at the hospital, as Bitterroot Health enters a new growth phase which is seeing additional services come online spread throughout the valley — all with the objective of making healthcare affordable, and available.

"So as you look at the new locations in Stevensville and Darby and some of the new services coming online with the Cancer Center, that's being built and the other specialists that have joined the organization recently, we really are pushing forward on that mission," Bishop observes.

Yet the growth is actually the challenge facing the hospital and its various operations in the coming years.

"The biggest challenge we face today is really the growth of Western Montana and we're seeing a tremendous amount of growth here in Ravalli County specifically. And it's creating more demand for services in the health care industry and as a hospital you know we're trying to keep up."

Bishop believes the quality recognized by the award may actually help with recruiting staff.

"Recruiting of key staff has been very challenging, you know with the lack of housing availability and costs. So ensuring that we have the right people, and investing in those people to join our organization to help lead us forward is really key."