New Steele Memorial Clinic opens to public
Steele Memorial CEO JeanieGentry applauds as COO Abner King (center) cuts the ribbon in front of the New Steele Memorial Clinic last week. Also pictured are: Samuel Gardner, DO; Jim Peterson, CFO; Beth Miller, clinic manager; Dennis Lile, past chairman, SMMC Board of Directors; King; Paul Moody, engineering manager; Kevin King, senior design manager; Reid Bruehl, project manager; and Matt Guho of general contractor, Guho Construction. Todd Adams photos
Dr. Samuel Gardner addresses the crowd gathered for the grand opening of the new Steele Memorial Clinic building. Todd Adams photos
Steele Memorial CEO Jeanie Gentry introduces key players who made the new Steele Memorial Clinic building a reality. Todd Adams photos
In the entryway of the new Steele Memorial Clinic, CEO Jeannie Gentry (left) chats with Jenny Tracy. Todd Adams photos
After the dedication ceremony and tours, it was time to eat. The public got a chance to see the new Steele Memorial Clinic’s meeting room in use as a cafeteria. Todd Adams photos
Steele Memorial Medical Center (SMMC) in Salmon has grown to the point that when you pull into one of its several parking lots, you might think you’re in the Wood River Valley.
SMMC staff and members of the Salmon public attended a grand opening for the new Steele Memorial Clinic building last Thursday, February 9. Festivities included a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony, public tours and refreshments. The new building opened to its first patients this week.
Dr. Samuel Gardner, an osteopath who spoke at the ceremony, said he didn’t have the vision of opening a new clinic building as did members of the board of directors. He thought the new hospital, completed in 2004, was the biggest event he’d see during his medical career in Salmon. He was glad to say he was wrong.
The new building allows SMMC to provide more care to Lemhi and Custer county residents and attract more health care providers and possibly new businesses to help the community live and grow, Gardner said.
“It’s been a privilege to serve and care for you and your family and I appreciate you caring for mine,” Gardner told the crowd. “With this building, we move another step into the future to continuing a heritage in Salmon of a community caring for itself.”
Steele Memorial CEO Jeanie Gentry had people critical to the project come forward for the ribbon cutting: former CEO Jeff Hill; Samuel Gardner, DO; Jim Peterson, CFO; Beth Miller, clinic manager; Dennis Lile, past chairman, SMMC Board of Directors; Abner King, COO; Paul Moody, engineering manager; Kevin King, senior design manager; Reid Bruehl, project manager; and Matt and Mark Guho of general contractor Guho Construction.
Steele Memorial Clinic is actually made up of two buildings connected by a breezeway. In the new building are general or primary practitioners and the walk-in urgent care clinic, while specialists are housed in the older building. With added space, more specialists will be able to come to Salmon. The outpatient specialty clinic offers cardiology, dermatology, oncology, orthopedics, audiology, ophthalmology, plastic surgery, psychiatry, urology and otolaryngology (diseases of the ear and throat) services.
Steele Memorial Medical Center primarily serves Lemhi and north Custer county residents.
The original Steele Memorial Hospital was built in 1950. It was torn down, and its former footprint is now the clinic parking lot. The new hospital building was ready with 18 beds for patients in 2004. The older clinic building was constructed in the mid- to late-1990s.
Growth in the health care industry is in outpatient care, Gentry said, a niche that the new clinic building fills. Many overnight hospital stays in the past have now become outpatient day surgeries.
Steele Memorial is designated by Medicare as a critical access hospital, which by definition is one with 25 beds or fewer that serves a rural population. The clinic is designated a rural health clinic, which is what Challis Area Health Center was prior to becoming a Community Health Center (CHC).
“We’re the most remote hospital in the Lower 48,” Gentry said, meaning Salmon is farthest away from any other hospital in the contiguous states. “Because of that, the community is really supportive to make sure we’ve got the services here that we need.”
Ground was broken on the new clinic building on May 1, 2016, and the project came in under cost and under time this month. One slowdown was bentonite clay that had to be dug up, hauled out and replaced with dirt better suited for foundations.
Construction cost was $5.3 million or a total of $7 million including architectural fees and equipment for the new clinic. It was financed with a bank loan, Gentry said. More than half the construction money was spent and paid to local subcontractors and stayed in the Salmon community.
The new clinic building has allowed an expansion of local services and staff plus specialists who have their own practices and come in from outside the community. They come from Idaho Falls, Missoula and Pocatello. Some have their main offices in Salmon but are not employed directly by the hospital or clinic.
Two new local physicians came on board last summer in anticipation of the new clinic building, Gentry said. The urgent-care walk-in clinic started up in the old building, which made for some crowded conditions. Everyone’s breathing easier with the extra space now.
Going to an urgent-care clinic is cheaper than going to a hospital emergency room, Gentry said. Costs are comparable to primary care where patients have scheduled appointments in advance. That’s good for patients whose only previous option for urgent care was the ER. An MD is on duty in the Steele Memorial ER 24/7 for life-threatening emergencies.
Steele Memorial Medical Center employs about 170 people between its clinic and hospital, Gentry said.
SMMC is a county hospital with its own hospital district, so it gets financial support from Lemhi County taxpayers in addition to the private Steele Reese Foundation. The Steele Memorial Foundation does fundraisers for medical equipment, most recently for the audiology lab.
The original hospital was built in 1950 through funds provided by the taxpayers of Lemhi County, donations and a large contribution made by ranchers Eleanor and Emmett Reese in memory of Eleanor’s father, Charles Steele.