Bigfork Valley breaks ground on $1.2 million addition

Participating in the groundbreaking were, from left, Brian Huju, Nor-Son; Eddy on the Edge mascot; Diane Bakke, SRHS board member; Leo Kern, director of plant operations; Judy Bergh, Minnesota Department of Health Office of Rural Health and Primary Care; Amy Pifher, mayor of Bigfork; Aaron Saude, CEO Bigfork Valley; Gail Blackmer, SRHS board member; Mike Holmes, CEO SRHS; Rep. Julie Sandstede; Diane Gallagher, SRHS board member; Marie Lovdahl, Bigfork Valley board member; Karen Springer, Bigfork Valley board treasurer; Dr. Eric Scrivner, SRHS; Dr. George Rounds, Bigfork Valley board chair; Dr. Jeffery Scrivner, SRHS medical director; Matt Huju, Bigfork Valley board member; Richard Bell, Nor-Son senior project manager; Keith Harvey, CFO SRHS, and JoAnn Krickhahn, Bigfork Valley board member.

Bigfork Valley Clinic in Bigfork is expanding its clinic space with a $1.2 million addition this summer.

With roots going back to 1941, Bigfork Valley Hospital and the facilities on its campus serve the Northern Itasca Hospital District that includes Bigfork, Big Falls, and communities in a 35-mile radius in Itasca and Koochiching counties.

The expansion is needed because of the facility’s growing reputation for excellent customer service throughout their campus, according to Sally Sedgwick, Bigfork Valley’s executive director of marketing. 

“Our patients are telling their friends and families about the care they received, and that’s drawing more people here,” Sedgwick said.

A recent survey from the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems showed that 99 percent of patients would ‘definitely recommend’ Bigfork Valley. The national average for hospital recommendations by patients is 72 percent.

Bigfork Valley has more than 200 employees on their campus, which includes senior housing and a nursing home. While Bigfork Valley owns the property and provides ancillary medical services, such as chiropractic, imaging and pharmacy, its medical clinic is run by Scenic Rivers Health Services, a non-profit community health provider that is part of the Cook Area Health Services.

One of the few independent health service providers left in Minnesota, Scenic Rivers Health Services site manager Travis Luedke said they are thriving for one very good reason: patient satisfaction.

“We are growing because we’ve created a different model where doctors spend considerable more time with patients, and they don’t feel rushed,” Luedke said.

That model means that doctors spend around 45 minutes with each patient, and Luedke noted Scenic Rivers doctors are happier, too.

“They don’t get paid for production like in other places, and that results in more time spent with the patient and better healthcare outcomes,” he said.

That kind of philosophy is drawing more patients to what he called “an island of good healthcare in the middle of nowhere.” The reimbursement structure of Scenic Rivers is what gives them the option of slowing down in a world pressing for rapid turnover of patients to optimize the bottom dollar. Funded with grant dollars, the operation can offer a sliding fee scale for payment in an underserved region.

In order to keep up with patient volume, Scenic Rivers needs to grow, Luedke said. They are planning to add two new physicians to the roster this fall, bringing the total count up to six doctors and one physician’s assistant. 

A ground breaking ceremony for the $1.2 million project was held on July.

Scheduled to be completed by this fall by Nor-Son, Inc., the addition to the existing clinic building will add 3,200 square feet and include six additional exam rooms, a procedure room and offices. 

Renovation of the existing clinic is also in the plans, with the admissions area being updated to create more patient privacy and better traffic flow inside the clinic for patients as they move throughout the building.