Quick, can you name a business in San Juan County that began in the aftermath of the USA economic collapse of 2007, but is a viable, vibrant, profitable organization now?
Blue Mountain Hospital located in Blanding, that’s who.
Let’s take a tour of this important part of the health care community of San Juan County.
Blue Mountain Hospital (BMH), located on the south side of Blanding, is a fascinating place.
A tour of the beautiful facility reveals a dialysis center providing critical services for 32 patients on a regular basis; physical therapy; Emergency Room with three bays and three rooms for patients; an award winning lab; and a busy operating room that offers general surgery, colonoscopy, GI scopes, gall bladder, hernia, appendectomy, orthopedic, optamology, dental and podiatry surgery services. The hospital also offerd a full service radiology clinic with CTs, mammograms, ultrasounds, fluoroscopy, and a mobile MRI unit that comes at least weekly; 11 patient beds; a labor and delivery center that delivers nearly 150 happy babies a year; and a kitchen/dining room available to the community.
BMH is a truly remarkable facility in a comfortable, inviting setting complete with stunning Kay Shumway photographs of the county lining the rooms and hallways and a Hogan available for patients to bring a healer to have a ceremony, or a quiet place for families to be alone or grieve.
The Hogan is open to the community as well, for cultural events or even for the Boy Scouts to use for winter camps.
A portion of the hospital is also rented by Utah Navajo Health Systems (UNHS) to operate a clinic and a pharmacy. A one-stop health care shopping center, it seems.
“We are really proud of this facility,” says HR director Gail Northern, who has been with the hospital since its inception in 2009. “It has totally grown beyond our expectations. It’s not the same place it was in 2009 at all.
“We’re so proud of what we’ve accomplished. Never in my dreams did I think we’d get to this place. And we just keep growing.”
“Having grown up here when there was no hospital,” agrees BMH CEO Jeremy Lyman, “I’d say it’s a huge blessing. It’s a place close to home that offers all the services.
Indeed, the hospital is a boon to the community also in the number of employees it employs, 86. But it has taken lots of hard work to get where they are now.
“You can imagine opening a hospital in a community that hasn’t had a hospital,” marvels Lyman. “Overnight you have to come up with that much staff. It was very challenging in the beginning.
“We’ve come a long ways since then. We’ve become an employer that’s known as a great place to work. We have a lot of locals who’ve gone out and gotten the training and certification to come back and be in the area they grew up.”
Speaking of their team, Northern adds, “We have a great team of employees, who know their value in what we want to accomplish.”
And what do they hope to accomplish? “Our entire focus,” explained Lyman, “is to have a great place for patients to receive care, a great place for employees to work and a great place for physicians to practice medicine.”
The hospital is also looking to grow and improve as well. “We focus on improving our performance in all areas,” says Lyman, “quality service, financial performance, employee engagement, engagement with the community, growth.”
Indeed, the hospital added the services of a full time orthopedic surgeon in March of this year and are currently launching a critical care program, a Tele-ICU program, in conjunction with IHC. They hope this program will help them keep more patients here.
“That’s great for patients and families,” continues Lyman. “It reduces costs. People heal better and quicker if they’re closer to home.”
The critical care program should be fully implemented by the end of the year.
“We are not content with the status quo,” confirmed CFO Jimmie Johnson. “We want to find more ways to expand. Some of the challenges are doing this in a rural setting and justifying your volumes with the initial cost outlay.”
The orthopedic surgeon and critical care program fit those requirements.
BMH is a critical part of the growing health care system in San Juan County. They partnered with San Juan Health Services (SJHS) and Utah Navajo Health Systems recently, completing a Community Health Needs Assessment, done by an outside group that conducted surveys of residents, health care professionals, and other focus groups to determine needs.
They are awaiting the results of the assessment, due on December 6.
The three entities already collaborate on many things such as UNHS renting clinic and pharmacy space at BMH. SJHS and BMH also collaborate in regular meetings.
Possible improvements could be a general surgeon who would provides services at both hospitals. Any collaboration that would increase services and be cost-saving or revenue-generating practices will be studied closely by all three entities.
A common misconception about BMH is their relationship with UNHS. “We are completely and totally separate organizations,” says Johnson. “We work closely together, but we are different agencies.”
For example, “UNHS employs family practice physicians,” shares Lyman, “and we contract with [the physicians] for ER coverage and hospital services.”
The bottom line for BMH is this, “We operate in the black,” confirms Lyman. “Not in the first years, though. It was a difficult environment to open and develop programs, volume and reputation, grow a patient base, develop employees.
“We do that now without any subsides at all, from the taxpayers or the government or Indian Health Services. We have to be profitable to survive.”
Yep, a dream come true.