Last night our Hospital Attorney, John Ruprecht was telling me about a new book that he was reading. He said that it is so good that it is difficult to put it down. I love books like that so I asked him what he was reading. The book was about Custer’s Last Stand at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana. That statement immediately brought back many, many (many) very fond memories for me. No. I wasn’t at Custer’s Last Stand! But for 5 years I served as the Hospital CEO at Big Horn County Memorial Hospital in Hardin, Montana. Hardin, at the time, was a community of approximately 3000 people. It is located 10 miles away from the Little Bighorn Battlefield. Now a National Cemetary. For those of you that don’t recognize me in this photograph. I am the one with the cowboy hat and the grey beard. 4 members of our hospital staff and I are dressed for our hospital entry in the Annual Parade. Pictured with me are Judy Morris, Bill Hodges, Jo Engelhart and Sheryl McGurk. Every year during the weekend closest to June 25 (what a coincidence – that’s todays date), Hardin would celebrate “Little Bighorn Days.” The celebration would include a parade, craft fairs and 5 performances of a re-enactment of Custer’s Last Stand!
The significance of June 25 is that it is the anniversary of Custer’s Last Stand. My fond memories of Hardin are related to my work at Big Horn County Memorial Hospital. The hospital had a total of 53 beds. 16 were for acute care and 37 were for skilled nursing care. It is still, to this day, the only hospital that I ever worked in that had a skilled nursing unit. And I grew to have a great appreciation for the dedicated people that work in SNF facilities. And even more appreciation for the residents that live in them. It was always such a joy to spend time with the residents and learn about them and their lives. Our hospital was their home and we did everything necessary to make it a home that they could be proud of. So much has changed in health care since my time in Hardin from 1993 to 1998. But it was in Montana where I got my first real experience with rural hospitals and rural health care. And, here’s another little known fact. The Critical Access Hospital program was actually born in Montana. For, at least, 5 years before Critical Access Hospitals became a National model in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, they were already in operation in Montana. Of course, back in those days they were called Medical Assistance Facilities (MAFs). Big Horn County Memorial was not a MAF. But I learned about the model back then. I have been a huge proponent of Critical Access Hospitals ever since. Happy June 25 to Hardin! I am imagining that you will be celebrating Little Bighorn Days this weekend. I hope that this one is the best yet!