Pawhuska Hospital officials see the addition of an approximately 4,000-square-foot rural health clinic as another step in the direction of making it possible for area residents to obtain care locally.

“For so long, we had just kind of been a Band-Aid station,” said Beth Reed, chair of the hospital board. She joined the board about five years ago out of a desire to see the hospital improve.

“I wanted everybody to be able to stay in this community,” she said. “I just felt we could do all this here.”

The hospital held a belated groundbreaking ceremony March 29 for the clinic. Inclement weather caused the cancellation of an earlier attempt to hold the groundbreaking. Thus, the ceremony took place with the walls of the new facility already up and construction proceeding apace.

Administrator Godwin Feh said about 260 patients per month currently use the hospital’s emergency services, and employment at the hospital is up in the past few years from about 46 to between 90 and 100. Hospital officials said the daily patient census has increased in the past 2-3 years from about 1 per day to 10-12 per day.

The new rural health clinic, which Feh said he hopes will be open by June 1, will allow for after-hours and extended care, officials said. It will have a doctor and mid-level provider available, they said.The Bank of Pawhuska has provided financing in support of the clinic project, which hospital officials said is valued at about a million dollars.

“We want everyone to know how great this is,” Reed said of the new clinic, as well as of the changes made in recent years.

Assistant Administrator Jason McBride said Pawhuska Hospital anticipates it may be able to use a room in the new clinic facility on a regular basis to offer services such as eye exams and mammograms to the public. There is potential for a pharmacy to be included in the clinic, but no decision had been made whether that would be a retail or a compounding pharmacy, officials said.

Feh also said talks have begun with architects and federal government officials about the possibility that a new hospital facility for Pawhuska may be built in the coming years.

Pawhuska Hospital, established in 1923, moved to its present location on East 15th Street in 1965. It is a 25-bed, critical-access hospital that provides a variety of types of medical care, ranging from in-patient dialysis to in-patient and out-patient physical therapy, geriatric psychiatry and lab services.

“I used to have to drive out of town when I needed lab work,” said Reed, who stressed the importance of building community support for the hospital.

“We really need our community to support us,” she said. “We save lives. You don’t want to live in a community that doesn’t have a hospital and doctors.”

Cohesive Healthcare of Shawnee is the management company for Pawhuska Hospital. Feh, the hospital administrator, is also president of Cohesive. Kathy Hammons, CEO of Cohesive, was on-hand for the clinic groundbreaking ceremony March 29.

Hospital board members include Beth Reed, Beverly Tolson, Ben West, Pam Carpenter and Dr. Cameron Ramsey, medical director. Dan Keleher is the architect for the clinic project and Rick Scott Construction is building the structure.