Posted 3/11/14 (Tue)
By Stephanie Norman
Farmer Staff Writer
As the McKenzie County Healthcare System (MCHS) plans to begin construction on a $55 million facility this summer, they are also adding new staff.
With McKenzie County leading the state in oil production, the influx of individuals and families have given local businesses and organizations no choice but to expand to meet the needs of the county.
“In order to support the influx in people and continue to grow as a healthcare system, we must increase the capacity of the facility,” Mike Curtis, Chief Operating Officer for the healthcare system, said. “The infrastructure of the existing clinic and hospital was built for 1,100 people, not for the number of people here now or what they’re projecting. The board didn’t jump on this in 2008 when the oil boom began. They waited, watched and now it’s time to come up with a methodical approach to meet the area’s growing healthcare needs.”
The construction of a new replacement healthcare facility will be the largest project the local healthcare system has seen in over 62 years.
“The focus of our board is to build a healthy community,” Dan Kelly, healthcare system Chief Executive Officer, said. “And a new facility will allow us to do that.”
With 120,000 square feet between the new hospital and clinic, there would be 24 critical access beds, 12 emergency room treatment bays, and eight clinic exam rooms, along with space for specialty doctors. The Good Shepherd Home would undergo a complete renovation as well. The new facility is to be built next to the Good Shepherd Home, looking down the hill to the Connie Wold Wellness Center.
“This new facility will be the medical hub for McKenzie County,” Curtis said. “We are adding staff incrementally as we progress, but building comes in giant leaps at a time. We need to stage this building for future growth.”
Curtis recently joined the healthcare system as chief operating officer on Jan. 30. He has 12 years of experience in the healthcare field.
“My job is to help the chief executive officer, Dan Kelly, in any way that I can,” Curtis said. “I supervise departments as needed and solve problems, both procedures and staff.”
Dr. Donita Diamond and Dr. David Rivas, who joined the healthcare system’s physician staff in February, offer a wide range of medical experience to the community and healthcare system.
Dr. Diamond comes to Watford City from Michigan where she owned and operated a thriving medical center.
By hiring new doctors, such as Dr. Diamond and Dr. Rivas, the clinic can schedule more patients, from infancy to geriatrics, and also allow more local physician ER coverage.
Dr. Diamond is available at the clinic each weekday for appointments except for Wednesdays, when she spends a 24-hour shift in the ER.
Between the staff, including Dr. Diamond, Dr. Rivas, and Dr. Gary Ramage, they all take turns working shifts in the ER.
Bart Hunter, NP, and Kirsten Vetterkind, NP, also share time in the clinic.
“The ER is very busy for the size of our hospital,” Curtis said. “We see close to 600 patients each month in the ER.”
According to Curtis, the healthcare system is looking to bring in a couple part-time medical specialists - such as a pediatrician and psychiatrist.
“We don’t have quite the number of people to hire full-time specialists, but with the increase in families and children in the community we’re looking to bring in a pediatrician,” Curtis said. “We also have the need for a behavior health specialist.”
The specialist doctors would come from St. Alexius and Sanford Health. Details on who exactly and what days/times they will be here have not been set in stone, according to Curtis.
Currently, the healthcare system already brings in specialists, such as a cardiologist, orthopedic and pediatrists, to see patients at the clinic. With an outreach contract program, Curtis said the healthcare system is hoping to get more specialists to meet the needs of more individuals.
“If these doctors are going to come to Watford City and offer care for the patients in McKenzie County, then something needs to be done to make sure rooms and offices are available for them to work in,” Curtis said.
“We need to expand the primary care base here,” Curtis said. “We are looking at adding a portable building next to the clinic. The idea is to bring in office space so we can make the current space into more patient rooms. It would pretty much double the clinic patient rooms and be an intermediate step for the clinic.”
Dr. Diamond said, “I’m really excited to be here and be a part of this flourishing healthcare system. The hospital is headed in a great direction and the beauty of a new building will instill confidence in our community.”