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Phillips County Hospital, a six-bed critical access hospital in rural Malta, Montana is one of many hospitals that works with 3RNet’s member in Montana, MHA – an Association of Montana Hospitals. Phillips County’s CEO, Ward VanWichen, shared with us some of his hospital’s success and how it relates to retaining great providers.

Ward has a nursing background and first worked at the ‘old’ Phillips County Hospital as a registered nurse. Through some moves – both physical and career-related – Ward, his wife and four boys found themselves wanting to move away from and then back to Malta, a community of less than 2,000 people located somewhere along the border of north-central and north-eastern Montana 40 miles from the Canadian border. Back in Malta, Ward eventually became the Administrator for the local nursing home and then was recommended to take over when Phillips County’s CEO retired eight years ago.

From CNA to CEO, Ward has used both his clinical and business perspectives to take his hospital to the top. Phillips County has been recently recognized as one of the Top 100 Critical Access Hospitals and then on top of that one of the Top 20 Critical Access Hospitals in the United States.

“The Top 100 recognition is obtained through publically reported data which is then obtained and compiled by a company called iVantage to create the Hospital Strength Index which is a broad performance scorecard. Shortly after we received that recognition, I got a call from the National Rural Health Association informing us that we had also been named as one of the Top 20 Critical Access Hospitals in the US which we are quite honored and proud of yet humbled by. ” Ward said. “This recognition is based on 10 indices of strength including competitive strength, competitive intensity, market size and growth, population risk, cost, charge, quality, outcomes, patient perspective and financial stability. I think it shows we’re doing some great things and are on the right path to continue to improve and provide quality care and services to our community.”

So what does Ward credit this success to?

“I would never say we’re any better than our cohorts down the street. We just do things our way, the Phillips County Hospital way. We treat our employees as family. We have a culture that embraces thinking outside the box, doing things on your own, but knowing that you have the support you need,” Ward said.

Ward’s connection with MHA as Montana’s 3RNet member is partly geared toward assistance in recruiting health care professionals. Unlike many hospitals across the country, recruitment assistance isn’t something Ward’s had to worry much about.

“Our human capital is our most valuable asset and tool. We haven’t had to do a lot of recruiting. We have very good retention – we have great, quality, professional, caring and passionate people who we’ve had for ten, fifteen and even more than twenty years. We’re all in it together. Everyone is as important as everyone else,” Ward said.

Phillips County connects with MHA to post jobs and is looking to recruit registered nurses and a mid-level provider in the near future to add to their already successful team.

Whatever it is that Phillips County is doing, we’re glad they’ve found such success for their community! In a community where the next closest hospitals are 70 and 90 miles away, there are a lot of patients who are reaping the benefits of Ward’s and Phillips County’s success.

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