In the 1940s, the Kiwanis Club desired to erect a veteran’s plaque which would bear the names of men from this area who served in World War II. This idea however, came to a halt after investigating its usefulness and the price, which was around $4,500.00. There were more meetings and discussions that followed until the thought of having a Wheatland County Hospital came to life. It was understandable that a hospital would be favored because of its necessity. The nearest hospital was located in Lewistown which is an hour drive away. Committees were set up to research the project. And before long, a bond was overwhelmingly passed in the amount of $75,000.00. In 1945, Mr. D. E. Perkins generously donated the land for the hospital.
After the war, it was obvious that additional funding would be needed due to inflation. Another bond was issued in 1948 in the amount of $100,000.00. A Grant of $50,000.00 was received from the Federal Bureau of Public Health and State Survey and Construction to be spent on the building and hospital equipment. The community also contributed money in the amount of $40,000.00. Upon its completion, this facility carried a wholesome investment of $265,000.00 plus lots of donated services from dedicated folks around this area.
On April 29, 1951, Wheatland Memorial Healthcare, a 31 bed facility, opened its doors for the first time, to cater the health care needs of Wheatland County and the surrounding areas.
The Lutheran Hospitals and Homes Society operated the facility under a Lease Agreement. The LHHS also appointed the first Governing Board from the local community. Mr. Howard Place was the first Administrator and Ms. Louise Hanson was the first Superintendent. They managed the facility along with Drs. Edward Gans and Raymond Johnson, four nurses, five nursing aides, a receptionist, three assistants, a maintenance person and a technician was added later. Mrs. Olga Steinhauser was the first patient admitted on April 30, 1951, and the first baby delivered was Colleen Kalberg on May 2nd.
The Guild has played a significant part of this facility as it was also established in 1951. It has donated and launched several fund raising projects. One of which is a bronze plaque dedicated to the servicemen who lost their lives in WWII, now on display outside the laboratory on the 2nd floor.
In December 1962, an anonymous donor purchased the three lots East of Wheatland Memorial Healthcare and donated the land to the hospital for future expansion.
A Groundbreaking Ceremony was held on April 20, 1969 for the new Nursing Retirement Home and hospital renovation project. This was funded by a bond issue that was approved in 1966 in the amount of $325,000.00 and federal Hill Burton Funds totaled $290,393.00. The city of Harlowton also provided $5,000.00 for paving work. The facility received a $50,000.00 X-ray unit donated by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Stevens, and $64,200.00 in miscellaneous contributions. A formal dedication was held on January 17, 1971.
An addition of 44×150 feet was added to the existing facility area of 42×130 feet. With the new addition, the hospital capacity was brought to a total of 25 hospital beds, 31 nursing home beds, and five baby bassinets.
In 1982, Alberta Bair generously donated $145,000.00 specifically for the construction of a new clinic which is now known as the Bair Memorial Clinic. The county commissioners held public meetings to listen to the concerns of the community and discussed as to where the new building should be situated. The existing Clinic was located in downtown Harlowton. In the early part of 1983, a plan and architectural drawings were approved and construction began. It was completed in September of 1983 by Fischer and Sons Construction. The Clinic was attached to the west end of the facility. The medical clinic moved to the new location in October.
Over the years, the hospital received numerous donations and grants that became the bloodline for this facility’s existence. A new trust fund for the Wheatland Memorial Hospital and Nursing Home was established in 1983. The first $100,000.00 was donated by the Bair Family. Additional donations and successful investment policies has allowed the organization to maintain a Strategic Fund today.
One of the newest services added to the facility is the Telepharmacy, in May of 2004. The first of its kind in the entire state of Montana and was awarded the 2004 Innovation in Health Care Award by the Montana Hospital Association, for its technological creativity to provide medical care for communities like Harlowton and the surrounding counties.
Currently, Wheatland Memorial Healthcare has 25 beds, Clinic, Laboratory, X-ray, and Physical Therapy. Surgery services stopped in the early part of 1990 but, we still deal with emergency cases. Although the maternity services were discontinued in 1987, it’s good to know that there were 2,000 babies delivered in this hospital since its establishment.
On July 1, 2006 the facility made a significant change to enable it to take advantage of new federal reimbursement programs. The nursing home was de-licensed and the hospital now treats those patients in the 25 acute care/swing beds. This conversion is the same type that other small hospitals across the country are making. Hospital finances are extremely complex and this move helped us to receive additional reimbursement from the federal government without increasing charges to our patients.
In 2006 the hospital continued its efforts to stay on the cutting edge of technology by adding a CT scanner and bone-mineral densitometry (DXA) scanner. A new emergency power generator system was added this same year that now allows the entire hospital campus to be under emergency power during power outages. Between 2005 and 2007 all of the hospital patient rooms were renovated and modernized. In 2007 a new Telemedicine Studio and a Community Health Education Center were constructed to take advantage of technological advances in healthcare.
Wheatland Memorial Healthcare was born from a simple and noble desire to honor our servicemen. And because of the untiring dedication of our local citizens, this facility continues to evolve and strives to meet its purpose, to serve the healthcare needs of this community.