Sweet Grass County residents have built a legacy of commitment to community health care. The original hospital and nursing home were built in 1950 and 1965 as separate entities. Individual and group donations were the key to building and operating these facilities. In 1992, the hospital had to close due to challenging financial circumstances. The facility reopened in 1995 in the same location as a nursing home.
In order to reopen the hospital, a major expansion to the nursing home was required. The hospital expansion was financed through a general obligation bond, nursing home reserves, donations from the Sweet Grass Health Care Foundation and a Community Development Block Grant. In 1998 and 2001, expansions also added a rural health clinic and assisted living facility. These expansions were largely funded by medical center reserves, local donations, revenue bonds and a USDA rural development loan.
Since 1995, Pioneer Medical Center (PMC) has continued to grow in order to meet the healthcare needs of Sweet Grass County. In addition to providing critical health care services, PMC is the second largest employer in Sweet Grass County with nearly 165 employees. The total economic impact attributed to PMC operations is estimated to be over $8.5 million dollars.
In 2016, PMC transitioned from a county facility to a 501c3 and signed a formal affiliation agreement with Billings Clinic (BC). PMC was the first affiliate of BC beginning in 1997. Under the formal affiliation agreement, BC will continue to provide management services for PMC and employ the CEO as well as some of the medical staff. Additionally, BC will appoint two members of the governing board of PMC. To continue the long supportive relationship with Sweet Grass County, the Board of Directors will include one seat designated for a Sweet Grass County Commissioner. The relationship between PMC and BC focuses on collaboration intended to enhance patient care in Sweet Grass County. BC and PMC will work together to find the best processes and opportunities to improve access, quality, and service.
Pioneer Medical Center (PMC) is a 25-bed Critical Access Hospital, Rural Health Clinic, and 16-unit Assisted Living Facility located in beautiful Big Timber, Montana. Pioneer Medical Center has a service area of just under nineteen hundred square miles and provides medical services to the Sweet Grass County population of approximately 3,623 people.
Pioneer Medical Center engaged in the Community Health Needs Assessment, administrated by the Montana Office of Rural Health and funded in part through the Montana Health Research and Education Foundation (MHREF) Flex Grant.
In the summer of 2018, an environmental scan of all relevant data was conducted to gather health, economic, and demographic information for Sweet Grass County. Existing data in the form of surveys and county/state reports were utilized. In addition, the Montana Office of Rural Health staff traveled to Big Timber and held 4 focus groups and 2 key informant interviews.
Big Timber, Montana, a community of nearly 2,000 people, is located in the Yellowstone River Valley in south-central Montana. Big Timber is the county seat of Sweet Grass County. The town is located on I-90, a busy transportation route and Montana’s only east-west interstate highway. County population is about 3,800 people. The community has excellent schools, clean air, and no congestion, pollution, or big-city crime. Big Timber is a friendly town where people still wave at each other when driving down the street. Billings, the largest city in Montana, is 80 miles away and Bozeman, a vibrant college town, is only 60 miles away.
Ideally situated between the Crazy Mountains and Absaroka Mountains, Big Timber is an outdoor enthusiast's dream. Year-round activities for people of all ages can be found nearby. Fly-fishing on the local Boulder and Yellowstone Rivers is a popular pastime. Nearby warm water fisheries include Deadman’s Basin and Martinsdale Reservoir. Endless hiking opportunities can be found within a short drive or right in town at one of the several local parks. If hunting is the recreational pursuit you desire, Big Timber and Sweet Grass County won’t let you down. Hunting for elk, deer, antelope and upland birds can be done on much of the public land in the county.
Big Timber gets its name from the large Cottonwood trees William Clark noted on the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition. More about the history of Big Timber, Sweet Grass County, and the surrounding area can be found at the Crazy Mountain Museum on the edge of town. Art galleries and boutique shops dot historic McLeod Street. A busy Adult Education program offers classes of all types, from baking and woodworking to first AID and Facebook advertising. Community events such as rodeos and parades take place all year and volunteer opportunities are endless.
Pioneer Medical Center was the first affiliate of Billings Clinic originating with a management agreement in 1997. Since then, our partnership with Billings Clinic has continued to grow and develop in order to serve the needs of Sweet Grass County. Pioneer Medical Center and Billings Clinic continue to operate as self-governed organizations that work as partners to provide a more integrated patient centered healthcare system.
Working with Billings Clinic offers facilities like ours opportunities and resources that may otherwise be cost prohibitive to rural healthcare. Utilizing shared technology, resources, and services, we are able to offer more comprehensive and affordable healthcare to our community and their families.