Billings Gazette (10.30.12)
A new community health center that received a $604,000 federal grant has opened in Hardin, Mont. The new Bighorn Valley Health Center hopes to provide 4,800 yearly visits. As a private, nonprofit health care corporation, it will “fill the gap in health care services,” states Dr. David Mark, interim CEO of the center. However, leaders of the long-established Hardin Clinic, owned by St. Vincent Healthcare, argue that there is no gap and that existing clinics in the county are enough to serve the population. Hardin Clinic serves approximately 19,000 patients yearly.
Dr. Mark points out that nearly half of the 13,000 residents of Big Horn County—dominated by two Indian reservations—do not have access to primary health care services and are medically underserved. He claims that even with the current health care options available at the Hardin Clinic, many residents are not receiving the care they need. He declares that Bighorn Valley Health Center does not want to compete, but wants to work together with existing facilities. The Bighorn Valley Health Center will be staffed with 12 people and will emphasize prevention by helping patients manage the most prevalent diseases facing low-income communities, such as HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, diabetes, and hypertension.
Yet St. Vincent Physician Network-Hardin Clinic leaders are not convinced of the need, saying that the new Big Horn Center is within blocks of an established primary-care facility. Hardin Clinic leaders point out that a number of clinics are affiliated with the St. Vincent Physician Network and provide care to patients, regardless of the patients’ ability to pay. Also the Indian Health Service has health facilities and satellite clinics in the area. “These clinics, along with the Hardin Clinic, are substantial enough to care for a county population of 13,000,” said John Kinna, executive director of the St. Vincent Physician Network.
The new Big Horn Valley Health Center will hold an open house on Sunday, November 4 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The center is located at 10 Fourth St., W., Suite B in Hardin.