A Legacy for Generations

Early in 1944, a few brave individuals dared to dream about the future of health care in Daniels County. In April of ’44, that dream became a reality and a fund drive initiated by the Scobey Lions Club put in motion a chain of events that would truly be a legacy for generations. Six years later, $100,000 in funds raised exclusively from local contributions was in the bank. Anticipating approval of a $50,000 Hill-Burton grant, Groundbreaking was scheduled for September 21st, 1950. Trustees of that first Daniels Memorial Hospital Association were A.R. Hanson, Rudy Nyquist, J.T. Sparling, Rasmus Nelson, Pete Fosland, Palmer Hanson, Mrs. C.J. Marsh, H.H. Ames, Mrs. E.T. Peterson, Charles Chicoine, Selmer Nelson, George Severson, Amedee Chabot, Willie Fladager, and John Lapke. In 1952, the Daniels Memorial Hospital Board finalized an agreement with Lutheran Hospitals and Homes Society of Fargo, ND to provide centralized management services coordinated by a team of administrative consultants in hospital operation. Some benefits of the arrangement included wholesale purchasing of medical supplies, financial accounting services, access to consultants in nursing management, plant engineering and long-range planning. During the first week of April, 1952 an open house celebration was held for the Grand Opening of the Daniels Memorial Hospital. Hospital Guild minutes included text from a newspaper article and read: “Daniels Memorial Hospital is an ultra modern building with 18 adult beds, a pediatric ward, nursery, obstetrical, surgical, x-ray and laboratory departments. It is so arranged and equipped to maintain efficiency with minimum staff of nurses and domestic help.” This open house was attended by over 1000 people, and Guild minutes from the next meeting presented bills for coffee, sugar and candles used for the celebration totaling just $7.50.

Soon, the new facility was experiencing growing pains, and an aging Daniels County population necessitated the addition of a nursing home/retirement home wing. Solicited bids were opened on Friday night, September 3rd, 1965 and groundbreaking was kicked off by Milton Ofstedal on Tuesday, September 7, 1965. The fund drive, spearheaded by Milton Ofstedal, raised approximately $165,000 all community donations. 90% of those funds were raised in less than a month and a half. A brief setback was experienced during the fall of 1965 when a shipment of steel for the flooring was short a few pieces, and work was halted for the winter. However, construction resumed in the Spring of ‘66 and on Sunday, November 20 at 2pm, a dedication ceremony attended by an over-capacity crowd was held for the new retirement wing. The first two residents to move in to the 19 unit West wing following the dedication were Lena Brenden, age 94 and Ellen Hamman, age 89.

Fast forward to 1974 when the County Council for the Aged asked the State Department of Health to conduct a survey of needs. Results of the survey showed nursing and retirement home space as of the most pressing needs for the area, with over 500 Daniels County residents over the age of 62. The surrounding community rose to the challenge and approved a countywide $519,000 bond issue. A new dining and recreational area, therapy room, and kitchen were added as well as the East & South resident wings -36 new beds in all! This new addition brought the total hospital and home capacity to fifty-five skilled beds. An article in ‘Light of Faith’ in May of 1977 stated “The new 36-bed nursing home addition in Scobey, Montana, dedicated May 15th, is a tribute to the wisdom and just plain perseverance of these citizens as well as the generosity of Daniels County residents.” And “County support for the project was evident from the beginning. Within 3 weeks, there were over 500 signatures on the bond petitions. Council Chairman Jack Reiner remarked at the time, “Response was tremendous. In getting over 500 signers, only six turndowns were reported. This is most unusual when one considers we are asking taxpayers for more money. It certainly emphasizes that citizens recognize the need for additional nursing home and retirement facilities for the area. Lutheran Hospitals and Homes Society terminated its operation and management of Daniels Memorial Hospital and Nursing Home on March 31, 1979. In April of the same year, the Daniels County community once again contributed over $170,000 to a hospital fund drive to establish an operating reserve.

Thirty years later, Daniels Memorial Healthcare Center matured into a 24-bed Critical Access Hospital and Rural Health Care Clinic with a 24 hour Emergency Room. It also hosted a Home Health agency along with a Community Health service and a Hospice program. There is an outpatient rehabilitation department, housed in the Wyvil & Vera Bjerke Wellness center, staffed by a Speech Therapist and several Physical Therapists. It boasts of having one of the few therapy pools in Eastern Montana.

In April 2017, DMHC converted its 24 bed hospital and 30 bed Nursing Home into a 25 bed Critical Access Hospital, ceasing its Nursing Home status. Residents saw no change in their care and continue under a swing bed capacity. This change allows DMHC to recapture all allowable Medicare and Medicaid costs that are currently not available under the Nursing Home status. DMHC has full time Laboratory and Radiology services, a Dietician and a Pharmacist. Visiting specialties include General Surgery and OB-GYN services.

Daniels Memorial began as, and still remains a facility built by our community, for our community.