Serving the community has been part of a family tradition that longtime North Big Horn Hospital trustee Don Minchow learned from his parents and has made part of his life for many years. So when he made the decision during the most recent election not to run for re-election to the North Big Horn Hospital Board of Trustees, it wasn’t a decision he took lightly. Minchow has been a trustee for 20 years and has seen the organization go through many changes.
“I feel that the hospital is in a good position right now,” said Minchow. “We’ve been able to continue growing and it’s time to let someone else in with different ideas or a different spin on things.”
During his tenure Minchow saw the hospital grow from a struggling operation to one of the highest rated and most financially sound districts in the state. Looking back on his years on the board, he noted that wasn’t always the case.
“The hospital was having a lot of problems at the time I decided to run for the position and I ran because I felt like I had something to offer,” said Minchow. “I had been an EMT for a while, so I knew a little bit about that part and I felt like I could help make things better.”
He recalled the struggle to keep the doors open back in those days.
“At first, our main thing back then was trying to keep the hospital open,” said Minchow. “The financial situation was that we didn’t know from payday to payday if there was going to be enough money (to release checks). There used to be a stack of 50 to 60 checks sitting around waiting until we had money. So we worked and worked on that and we changed things and it got better.”
On Minchow’s watch, the clinic was opened, a number of important areas of the facility were remodeled and state of the art equipment was purchased. A number of programs were put into place for employees and services were greatly expanded. It grew into an award-winning facility.
“One of the things we’ve really worked on is how to best serve the area,” said Minchow, “how to make it the choice place to go, and I think we’ve been pretty successful doing that, especially in the last 10 years.”
Minchow attributed much of that to the leadership of CEO Rick Schroeder, who joined the staff about seven years ago. He also credited the other trustees on the board who made it their mission to focus on positive changes.
“It used to be nobody liked each other,” said Minchow. “One department was against another. We found over time that the better we made this place to work, the more people got along. Employee morale got better, their outlook got better and everything else just got better with it. I think Rick had a lot to do with that. When we got Rick, we got the best.”
Minchow said he thinks the biggest challenge the hospital faces in the future is dealing with ever changing government regulations.
“All of the regulations are hard to keep up with and to anticipate,” said Minchow. “I think there are a lot of changes going on and I think that is going to be the biggest challenge. Other than that, we have a wonderful staff, great providers, a CEO that is remarkable, a great support staff and I think we have a good board now.”
He said the affiliate relationship that has developed with Billings Clinic over the years has been helpful.
“They’ve helped us a lot. They’ve given us an opportunity to maintain our position and grow what we have to offer,” said Minchow. “I think the biggest accomplishment of our board is that we’ve been able to work together to make things positive. That’s something I feel really good about.”
In addition to his board membership, Minchow was also active for about 10 years on the Western Regional Trustee Symposium. In that capacity, he helped organize trainings and workshops for members in 13 states. He said the group held annual gatherings to share information and learn about the healthcare industry.
He said one of the things he is most proud of is seeing the development of a cohesive staff over the years, where everyone feels they have an important role in the organization.
“Being a small community, when people come in they probably know the cleaning staff, the ER staff, the lab people and the pharmacy people,” said Minchow. “I think in a small community the fact that we know each other is a good thing.
“The patient should get as positive of a response from the guy who is pushing the mop down the hallway as they do from the doctors and the nurses. Getting a friendly greeting from that person, who is probably someone they already know, is good. This is why a lot of times the employee of the month is one of those people pushing a mop or carrying the laundry. It’s because they have that big part in providing service to our patients, too. I think that kind of service is what’s made us a leader and put us where we are today.”
Trustee Chad Lindsay also retired from his position on the board after eight years of service to the board. The two trustees were replaced by Hans Hawley and David Winterholler, who were voted on to the board at the most recent election held on Nov. 8, 2016.
Returning trustees include Brett Crosby, Bruce Wacker, Linda NeVille, Mary Mathews and
By Patti Carpenter