Governor Steve Bullock Friday visited the Missouri River Medical Center in Fort Benton and announced that the Critical Access Hospital will receive $800,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds for mechanical system upgrades to its aging facility.
“Our rural critical access hospitals are essential to providing the quality of life all Montanans deserve and literally save lives by providing emergency services,” said Governor Bullock. “This necessary funding will help the community of Fort Benton keep good-paying jobs all while improving access to healthcare in this rural area of the state.”
As a Critical Access Hospital, the Missouri River Medical Center must have emergency staff on hand at any given time. In a rural area, that could mean the difference between life and death for residents where the next closest medical center is a 45-minute drive to Great Falls.
The grant will help fund the replacement of failing or outdated mechanical equipment, including emergency generators, a new fire alarm system, and a new heating and cooling plant. Additionally, funding to the Missouri River Medical Center will allow the hospital to retain 65 full-time, good paying jobs.
Critical Access Hospitals have benefited from the expansion of Medicaid in Montana as nearly 80,000 Montanans have gained access to health care through expansion and the state’s uninsured rate has dropped from 20 percent in 2013 to 7 percent in 2016. This lifeline to rural hospitals is at risk under the proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) which threatens to gut Medicaid and disproportionally harm states with significant rural populations, like Montana.