Last updateThu, 17 Jan 2019 5pm

406News Desk

Hospital seeking renewed mill levy to continue local care

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052518 CAT scanner
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052518 Maria Stoppler Maria Stoppler
052518 GCMC Front IMG 1258

GRANITE COUNTY - Living in rural Montana comes with a lot of advantages. Immense freedom, great views and even better people.

But with those perks also come a few disadvantages, one of which could be the lack of immediate medical care.

Founded in 1953, the Granite County Medical Center (GCMC) has been providing residents with an ever increasing array of services that help prevent illness, treat serious injury and provide care for the elderly. When the June 5 primary election takes place, the GCMC will seek to renew its $400,000 mill levy that will aid in the continuation and expansion of  its medical services to Granite County and the surrounding area.

According to CEO Maria Stoppler, the new mill levy will affect residents in the amount of $42.85 per $100,000 of taxable property and would begin July 1, 2019. That's an increase of $2.13 over the current levy of $380,000 that expires June 30, 2019.

"It's strictly operational funds," explained Stoppler of the proposed mill levy. "I don't want people confused that it is contributing to the CAT scan project because it's not. It's going strictly to the operational costs of the hospital."

The GCMC CAT scan fundraising project is being separately funded through grants and in-kind donations from several groups and family trusts. It will total approximately $800,000 when completed and give the GCMC the ability to better diagnose and treat patients in both standard and emergency medical situations. This may prevent many patients from making unnecessary trips to larger facilities father away in Missoula, eliminating additional costs and potentially hazardous drives especially during the winter months.

Like the current mill levy, the renewal being voted on in June will account for approximately 10% of the GCMC operational budget, with the remainder of its funding coming in through insurance reimbursements and private payments.

As insurance plans reimburse less and less and deductibles get bigger and bigger, this funding will help the GCMC cover that margin for when a family has expenses that go beyond their means to cover the deductibles.

According to Stoppler, the Lower Valley has traditionally struggled with supporting the hospital due to their proximity to I-90 and Missoula medical facilities. But she notes that what the hospital can offer, especially with the addition of the CT scan technology, is more far reaching than what many people may understand.

"We provide things like the athletic physicals and the annual health fairs," Stoppler said. "And we provide shuttles to the food bank from the Lower Valley.

"Since Drummond is losing its grocery store, we're also working with some groups in that area to provide a shuttle to Huffman's Grocery and the pharmacy here in Philipsburg so they can get their shopping and medications taken care of."

Stoppler noted that in a Needs Assessment Survey taken recently that 66 households in Granite County are without vehicles, so providing the shuttle services allows residents the opportunity to still access these much needed services.

The GCMC has also instituted the Athena Health medical records program, which allows county residents to quickly transfer information about their care at GCMC to any hospital outside the area. So if a Granite County resident were to be involved in an accident or sustain a serious injury away from home, their complete medical file could be downloaded to the attending facility so that complete, accurate care could be administered.

by Tim Allen, QSPNLive.com