Hospital planning for future ‘steady growth’

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  • North Valley Hospital

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    Kevin Abel is the CEO of North Valley Hospital. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

  • North Valley Hospital

  • 1

    Kevin Abel is the CEO of North Valley Hospital. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

North Valley Hospital saw about 1,600 patient admitted to the hospital last year.

The hospital recorded about 8,400 emergency visits, roughly 2,400 surgical procedures and almost 46,000 outpatient and clinic visits, and 550 births last year. For this year, the hospital anticipates those numbers will remain relatively even or slightly increase.

“We’re projecting slow, steady growth,” said hospital CEO Kevin Abel. “We’re going to continue to be a major employer in the community for sure and that’s very typical for most healthcare organizations. We’re expecting a slight increase.”

North Valley on Thursday hosted a community conservation lunch for about 30 people at Grouse Mountain Lodge to provide an update about the hospital and its services.

The hospital has 25 patient beds, but it expects to follow a national trend of seeing the number of outpatient procedures increasing. Technology advances have meant less time spent in the hospital, Abel notes, adding that about 70 percent of patients who visit the hospital are as outpatients.

“We’re seeing more and more services that used to be inpatient only are now as technology changes are outpatient procedures,” Abel said. “As we’re using robotics and minimally invasive technologies those stay times can move toward outpatient time. That’s true of us and true across the nation.”

As for the influx of visitors coming to the area particularly during the summer months. The hospital’s seasonal clinics, like those located at Whitefish Mountain Resort or in West Glacier, are meeting the needs of tourists visiting the area even if patients don’t come directly to the main North Valley campus, notes Allison Linville, the hospital’s marketing and community relations manager.

“That meets the tourist’s needs exactly where they are,” she said.

One area where the hospital is looking to provide more service also, according to Abel, is in behavior health services.

“We gather information from our community health needs assessment and health department trends and statistics and what that tells us is that with behavior health and physical health we’re seeing more of an integration,” he said. “So we’re adding an advanced practice clinician in our behavioral health.”

Financially, the hospital had a net revenue of $70.5 million for fiscal year 2019 and is anticipating a slight increase at $71.8 million for 2020. Abel said revenue collected by the hospital was 3 percent more than expected last year and expenses were 2 percent less than budgeted.

“It was a good fiscal year for us,” he said.

He pointed to North Valley’s affiliation under Kalispell Regional Healthcare System as providing a sharing of healthcare services, but also a way to potentially save money. About three years ago North Valley joined Kalispell Regional Medical Center and The HealthCenter in operating under the Kalispell Regional Healthcare System umbrella.

“The affiliation allowed us to integrate some back office functions in order to dedicate more to our clinic functions,” he said. “The material managements team has also been consolidated. We’re hoping that we can buy more sutures and Band-Aids by consolidating, and we hope to see the advantages from that for the organization.”

Allan Satterlee, executive director of the North Valley Hospital Foundation, listed many of the accomplishments of the hospital that have been made possible through donations.

“Whitefish is an amazing place to be and it has a culture of philanthropy,” he said. “What’s been accomplished here with private fundraising is pretty amazing.”

Satterlee pointed to two foundation accomplishments of fundraising of $540,000 to fully fund the installation of a 3D mammography machine at North Valley and $52,000 raised to complete a project to pay for mobile simulation lab costs and other education needs.

A remodel project to convert 18 semi-private rooms to private rooms at the hospital is nearly complete. The project will improve patient privacy, Satterlee noted.

The foundation and the hospital have been looking at and implementing ways to serve surrounding communities.

The hospital has created school based clinics in Columbia Falls and Eureka.

The foundation is working on expanding programs dealing with suicide prevention through joint efforts with the Nate Chute Foundation, and is working with Farm Hands — Nourish the Flathead on a pilot program to assist families in accessing healthy food and also growing vegetables and fruit at hospital’s community garden on its campus for programs such as diabetes prevention.

“These partnerships are a great way to expand our programs without adding staff,” Satterlee said.

To view North Valley Hospital’s 2019 annual report, visit https://www.krh.org/nvh/about-us/annual-reports.

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