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Broadwater Health Center

The Broadwater Health Center in Townsend continues to face financial challenges.

HELENA — The nine-bed hospital at the Broadwater Health System in Townsend, closed by state regulators July 12, could start accepting patients as early as today as it seeks state approval to keep its license.

The hospital’s emergency room has remained open, and the state gave the hospital until Aug. 20 to meet a plan of correction to allow it to fully reopen.

State officials visited the hospital to look at its progress and said the hospital could start accepting patients, system CEO Jan Kalgaard said Tuesday. But the state also needs to perform a follow-up survey.

“That can’t really happen until you admit patients, because the survey issues have to do with patient care,” Kalgaard said.

That survey also has to happen soon, she said, because the state, enforcing Medicare regulations, has a time limit under which it has to either approve the facility or revoke the license following the July violation.

The patients needed to gain approval could come in through the emergency room or by referral from a doctor, as long as the patients’ needs are within the scope of care the hospital is equipped to provide, Kalgaard said.

Put another way, a patient with pneumonia in need of antibiotics would likely be admitted; someone with serious head trauma would probably be sent somewhere else.

The rush to get patients — and the data their care would provide for examiners — means likely admissions before the arrival of a new permanent director of nursing, now scheduled for Sept. 10.

The hospital may then start increasing the number of patients it can accept as it increases staff, said Joni Carlton, chair of the Townsend Health System board, which oversees the facilities.

If the state passes the follow-up survey, the hospital would like to work with the state to license a critical-care facility for up to 25 beds, Kalgaard and Carlton said. That would involve some small improvements to some of the beds previously in the system’s nursing home, which was shut July 6.

Some of those beds would be “swing” beds, suitable for various levels of care.

Kalgaard said hospital staff met Friday to discuss criteria for admitting patients; several of the 25 or so displaced by the nursing home closure could be interested.

“As we ramp back up, we want to move the patients back in a way that makes sense for them and for us,” Kalgaard said.

The closures were primarily related to shortcomings in reporting various medical matters. The board removed its longtime medical director from that position and suspended him from the emergency room for 60 days. An interim medical director resigned that post, and the system’s CEO resigned and then left earlier than planned.

The emergency room has remained open, as have some other hospital services. The rural health clinic closed.

Meanwhile, the facility is generating very little income. Carlton said the biggest challenge in the interim will be financial. “And we’re working on that.”

The hospital board holds its annual meeting Sept. 27, Carlton said, and three members — Ben Knaff, Jaque Swenson and Martin Clark — face re-election. Interested candidates can pick up petitions at the health center business office and submit them by Sept. 17. Anyone 18 and over who lives in Broadwater County can apply for membership to the organization — even at the Sept. 27 meeting — and vote, Carlton said.