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HISTORY OF FALLON MEDICAL COMPLEX

Medical care in the Baker area began in 1909 with the arrival of a physician and a dentist, and the establishment of the Elizabeth Hospital in 1910.  Later, the Lang house became a hospital and another physician opened his practice in the Hildreth house on First Street East.

The 1950's saw numerous changes in Baker’s medical care.  With community support, donations, and county and federal funds, Fallon Memorial Hospital opened its doors in March 1953 under the management of Lutheran Homes, which continued until June 1956.  At that time, the community once again came to the hospital’s aid and in October 1956, the Fallon County Hospital Association was incorporated and a governing board of 12 community members was put into place.

In 1966, Fallon Memorial Nursing Home and Extended Care Facility opened.  In early 1969, a drive was started to establish a Coronary Care and Intensive Care (CCU/ICU) Unit.  Once again, with assistance from the county and the community, this unit was opened in March 1971.

In 1985, Home Health received its Certificate of Need for Fallon County, and by October 1987 it was licensed and certified to provide home care services. By 1993, Home Health obtained its Certificate of Need for Carter County.  Two years later, a Personal Care Attendant (PCA) program was started as a part of FMC’s Home Health services.

The Community Clinic was also acquired by Fallon County in 1987 from private owners, and shortly thereafter the 12-unit one and two bedroom Parkview Retirement Complex was constructed adjacent to the Hospital.  A construction project to upgrade the laboratory, add a birthing room, renovate some of the existing hospital and nursing home rooms, and add eight nursing home beds began in January of 1990 and was completed 18 months later, in mid-1991.

About the same time, in July 1991, a private, non-profit corporation, Fallon Medical Complex, Inc., was created to combine all of the various healthcare entities into one unified organization.  With the creation of this non-profit healthcare corporation, the Fallon County Commissioners relinquished control of the organization to a Board of Trustees, consisting of seven members of the community, and their appointed Chief Executive Officer.

Less than two years later, a new wing had been added to the complex, consolidating the Community Clinic and outpatient facilities, updating the radiology and lab departments, and establishing a formalized chemotherapy area and a dental office.  Concurrent with this project, a new surgical suite was built in the old lab space to accommodate FMC’s foray into a full-time surgical program, which thrived until 1994, when it was scaled back to an outpatient-only service.

In mid-1993, FMC opened a satellite clinic in Wibaux, MT. Located on Main Street, the clinic was a main-stay of the community until March 2008 when it was relocated to a new building constructed for the community by Wibaux County, adjacent to the Wibaux County Nursing Home.

Towards the end of 1995, Fallon Medical Complex (FMC) became a telemedicine network site along with four other Eastern Montana facilities and Deaconess BillingsClinic.  At that time, there were fewer than ten such networks established nationwide. The Eastern Montana Telemedicine Network has since grown by 29 other sites across 21 Eastern Montana counties.

FMC’s hospital was completely renovated in 1997.  This renovation updated all of the patient rooms and nursing areas, which had not changed significantly since they were first built in 1953.  The next major renovation of the hospital was completed ten years later, when the emergency room was relocated to the prior CCU/ICU area.

By early 2000, FMC was able to offer full-time physical therapy and part-time occupational therapy services to the community.  As its services continued to gain popularity, a second physical therapist was added in the spring of 2008 and a third physical therapist added in late 2013.  In early 2019, FMC hired a full-time Occupational Therapist, offering services previously provided on only a sporadic basis.

On July 1, 2001 Fallon Memorial Hospital became licensed as a federally designated Critical Access Hospital (CAH), which provides favorable reimbursement to remote, rural acute care hospitals.  At this time, FMC offered 12 acute care beds (with six swing beds) and 40 skilled nursing facility (SNF) beds, for a total of 52 beds.  Following further expansion of the CAH on July 1, 2004, and again on July 1, 2005, thirteen SNF beds were converted to CAH beds. Ultimately, on October 1, 2009, the SNF was permanently reduced by 12 beds, which resulted in a total of 40 beds comprised of 25 CAH acute care beds (all of which could also be used as swing beds) and 15 SNF beds.

Through a generous donation by Jim O’Connell, a local rancher who passed away in 2001, FMC was able to create and fund its “Friends of FMC Foundation.” The Foundation has since thrived through the generous donations from community citizens and businesses, as well as its annual community events, such as the “Lights of Life” event in the spring, the “Mammo-Whammo Golf Tournament” in the summer, and the “Fantasy Food Fair” in the winter.  Much of the proceeds from donations and events have been used to build equity, but the Foundation has also offered a healthcare career scholarship to students each year since 2005 and it funds well-needed equipment and improvements for FMC.

The Diagnostic Imaging department made a significant leap into computer-based imaging with the purchase of a Computerized Tomography (CT) unit in late 1998, which was later updated to a “spiral” CT in mid-2004.  Similarly, as ultrasound imaging moved beyond obstetrics, FMC purchased a state-of-the-art portable ultrasound in 2002 which was updated to a color-Doppler unit four years later.  By May 2019, the ultrasound was once again upgraded to the latest technology with 3D and 4D image capabilities.

In December 2000 FMC was asked to become a part of a teleradiology network along with other members of the Eastern Montana Telemedicine Network. Since that time, images have been routinely sent electronically to radiologists in other Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota communities, saving time and expense.  Following the installation of a computerized radiography (CR) system in the summer of 2008, and the replacement of an older mammography machine and x-ray machine, the Diagnostic Imaging department was able to “go filmless.”

FMC’s CT unit was again upgraded to a 16-slice state-of-the-art system with 3-D imaging in late 2010, with an additional commitment to purchase a 40-slice unit by mid-2019.  A full Picture Archiving and Communications System (PACS) was also added in 2010 to better archive and transmit images to radiologists around the world.  And in mid-2013, full-field digital mammography was installed in a newly renovated suite in the Diagnostic Imaging Department, courtesy of a 3-year grant from a major donor.

As Baker approached its 100thanniversary of medical care first arriving in the community, FMC participated in its most ambitious project to date: a new addition that tied the east end of FMC’s nursing home to the south door of Parkview Retirement Complex.  The project, completed in the spring of 2008, included the construction of 12 additional two-bedroom apartments for the Parkview Retirement Complex, a new building for the Fallon County Public Health Department, and a new kitchen and dining area for FMC.

Every year since 2003, FMC benefited from multiple smaller renovation projects that were undertaken through the generous funding of a capital improvement mill levy approved by Fallon County voters every two years.  Nearly every department in the facility benefited from this funding, from a waiting room renovation in the clinic, to an overhaul of the lab, to a relocation of the ER in the hospital, to the construction of offices and a hair salon in the nursing home, to creation of a training room and staff-specific space under the long-term care wing.

In mid-2012, another ambitious project was undertaken to remove and replace the concrete floors in the old kitchen/dining room areas and to convert the space to other uses.  The renovation resulted in the creation of a new purchasing department, telemedicine room, conference room, IT room, and new offices for the QAPI Coordinator, Foundation Director, and IT Department.  Similarly, by the end of 2015, the concrete floors under the nursing home had also been removed and replaced, resulting in the relocation of the laundry, housekeeping, and maintenance departments and the creation of multiple storage rooms.

Following a steady decline in long term care occupancy, an ongoing lack of adequate Medicaid reimbursement and an increase in the amount of regulatory requirements for nursing homes, FMC decertified its Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) on July 1, 2016.  This action reduced the facility to a total of 25 beds and converted all of the SNF square footage into Critical Access Hospital (CAH) space.  All long term care patients became CAH Intermediate Swing Bed Patients on that date, receiving the same services previously offered in the nursing home.

As 2016 progressed, FMC worked diligently to implement eEmergency and ePharmacy in partnership with Avera Healthcare located in Sioux Falls, SD. Funding for these projects was largely provided by the major donor that assisted FMC with its full field digital mammography project three years earlier.  By the end of 2018, a remodel of the swing bed (LTC) rooms in FMC’s CAH was completed to create a more home-like environment.  As of the end of this project, nearly every square foot of the building complex had been renovated or remodeled during the previous 20 years.

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