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A local long-time resident told the Lemhi County Commissioners Tuesday, October 11, that health care service in Salmon was better 50 years ago, with fewer doctors and much less equipment, than it is today.

Marjorie Webb told the board she has not been able to see her preferred local doctor without a waiting period of weeks and that she has also had long delays when trying to obtain a prescription because the hospital pharmacy person was off for the weekend and no one else had the keys.

She recounted many referrals and trips to Missoula for surgery and follow-up treatment which she said Steele Memorial Medical Clinic should have been able to perform. Webb said it is apparent that this hospital and clinic is not sufficient for local needs. Having met many local residents in Missoula, who were also there for medical treatment, she wondered how many thousands of local tax dollars are being sent out of town when those dollars should be being kept at home. She said that even the doctors in Missoula are asking why there are so many Salmon people coming to Montana for treatment.

Webb said since Steele Memorial is a county hospital the County Commissioners need to monitor its management more closely. She asked why it takes at least two weeks to get a doctor’s appointment when every doctor tells her they have set time aside for any unscheduled urgent needs of their patients.

Officials from Steele Memorial were in attendance at the commissioner’s meeting having just given the county board the hospital’s Fiscal Year 2016-17 budget and a progress report on the facility’s new clinic which is now under construction. The topic of Webb’s hospital management questions had been listed on the day’s meeting agenda and the hospital contingency had stayed to hear her comments.

Steele Memorial Medical Clinic Chief Operating Officer Abner King agreed that clinic access is problematic and that an action plan to correct that is underway. He said committing to a walk-in clinic is one step in the direction of improving access.

Commissioner Ken Miner asked if some doctors simply have a patient overload and King answered that due to patient loyalty many patients don’t wish to see another doctor even when one is available and offered. King said the clinic’s objective is that patients see a qualified physician when they need to see one. He said there is room for improvement and the hospital is working hard to correct problems.

As to Webb’s complaint about being sent out of town King commented about Salmon being a long way from anywhere and he said in some cases performing certain surgical procedures here, with no backup within reach in case of complications, is considered too dangerous for the patient.

King encouraged Webb to speak with Steele Memorial Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Jeanie Gentry and Webb replied she has an invitation from Gentry and does intend to meet with her.

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