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North Valley CEO Predicts 'Slow and Steady' Growth for Whitefish Hospital

A new report from North Valley Hospital shows the Whitefish medical facility is continuing to grow while simultaneously winning praise for its level of care.

During a community luncheon in Whitefish on May 2, CEO Kevin Abel told attendees that the hospital was moving in a positive direction, especially as its affiliation with Kalispell Regional Healthcare continues to develop. The two hospitals have had an affiliation agreement that allows the facilities to better coordinate efforts since 2016.

“We’re expecting slow and steady growth,” Abel said.

In 2018, North Valley had more than 8,400 emergency room visits, nearly 2,500 surgical procedures and almost 45,900 outpatient visits. The hospital, which last year was designated a “Baby Friendly Hospital” by Baby Friendly, USA, also delivered 566 babies in 2018.

Abel, who came on as CEO last year, said he expects similar numbers this year.

The hospital and its associated community clinics have also received regional and national recognition in recent months. In April, Sidney Neilson, practice manager at North Valley Professional Center and North Valley Physical Therapy in Columbia Falls, was awarded the Montana Medical Group Management Association’s Administrator of the Year award. Earlier in the year, Eureka Healthcare physician Dr. Edward Stein was selected as the Montana Family Physician of the Year by the Montana Academy of Family Physicians.

The 2019 Community Report also outlined some of the benefits of the hospital’s affiliation with KRH, stating it has “streamlined local health care.” Since the affiliation began in 2016, the hospitals’ physicians have been collaborating on various initiatives and KRH established a program that allowed nurses to work at both facilities. “Float nurses” attend training and orientation at both facilities, which enables the two hospitals to use the workforce where needed, depending on demand. Abel said the hospitals are also teaming up to consolidate their purchases in an effort to get medical materials at a better rate than by purchasing the same supplies individually.

“Some of the benefits (of the affiliation) are ones you can’t see,” Abel said.

The community report also covered the work being done by the North Valley Hospital Foundation to secure grants and funding for various projects at the facility. In 2018, the foundation helped secure $200,000 in grants from the Montana Healthcare Foundation for telemedicine and school-based behavioral health projects; raised more than $62,000 in the Whitefish Community Foundation’s Great Fish Challenge; and received a $50,000 grant from the Halliburton Charitable Foundation to upgrade patient comfort rooms.

Originally published May 2, 2019 in the Flathead Beacon.