Breaking ground on the future

Robert Galbreath photo Local boards come together to break ground for the critical access hospital and long-term care facility. Pictured, from left, are Sublette Center board members Ruth Steele, Kerry Majhanovich, chairwoman Patty Racich and Marilyn Jensen; SCHD Trustees Jamison Ziegler and Wendy Boman; commissioners Dave Stephens, Sam White, Doug Vickrey, Tom Noble and chairman Joel Bousman; SCHD Trustees Kenda Tanner, chairwoman Tonia Hoffman and Dave Bell and Rep. Albert Sommers.

PINEDALE – The old ball fields on the hill next to the Pinedale Clinic, silent all summer, burst to life on Thursday, Aug. 25. Freshly mowed fields previously used for Little League games and adult softball tournaments opened for a final, historic event.

Community leaders, representatives from state and federal agencies and Sublette County Health and Sublette Center administrators lined up, golden shovels ready to break ground and commence construction of the new critical access hospital and long-term care facility 100 years in the making.

Each individual behind the shovels represented untold hours of blood, sweat, tears and collaboration that brought a vision to improve health care in the community to fruition.

At least 700 people gathered for the groundbreaking, said Kari DeWitt, public relations director and grant writer for the Sublette County Hospital District (SCHD).

Following speeches by local and state leaders, Pinedale musician Jared Rogerson took to the stage.

SCHD Board Trustee Dave Bell delivered the welcoming address.

“There is a reason that we are here – to dedicate and celebrate the groundbreaking of a new hospital,” he said.

Bell presented a framed wildlife photograph to SCHD staff member Kory Albert for winning the district’s naming contest.

DeWitt thanked food vendors, Teletractors, the Pinedale Lions Club, Villanueva Rentals, 4-H Boulder Buckskins and Pinedale Fine Arts Council for contributing to the ceremony. She expressed gratitude to Joan Mitchell and Ruth Steele for help with event planning.

DeWitt credited U.S. Sen. John Barrasso for playing a role in advancing the SCHD’s application with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) at the national level.

Barrasso’s staffer, Sierra Brown, read a letter of congratulations from the senator.

“After practicing medicine in Wyoming for over 20 years, I know first-hand the importance of ensuring access to critical services, like health care, in Wyoming,” Barrasso wrote. “I am looking forward to Sublette County joining the many other outstanding critical access hospitals serving our state.”

Glenn Pauley, USDA’s state director for rural development, said a hospital will "increase quality of life" and can be "the difference between life and death" in emergencies.

Local leaders at the mic

SCHD Board Chairwoman Tonia Hoffman described the groundbreaking as “an exciting moment in our county’s history.”

Hoffman described the journey as “one of profound personal challenge, reflection and growth.” The new hospital "embraced progress and growth" while maintaining "the values that define us," she said.

The groundbreaking opened a “new chapter” for Sublette County, Hoffman added.

“I believe what we’ve come to celebrate is an opportunity to keep our loved ones closer during difficult times, an opportunity to strengthen the ability to sustain our communities and do so independently, an opportunity to create jobs that more of our young people will want to come home to, an opportunity for growth, but growth on our own terms.”

Hoffman gave a shoutout to SCHD Trustees Bell, Wendy Boman, Kenda Tanner and Jamison Ziegler and the Sublette Center board of directors – Chairwoman Patty Racich, Nancy Guio, Marilyn Jensen, Kerry Majhanovich, Steele and Tanner.

She also thanked SCHD and Sublette Center employees, SCHD administrator Dave Doorn, state and federal legislators and elected officials, past and present boards of county commissioners, town governments, the USDA, Layton Construction, Star Valley Health, the Sublette County Rural Health Care District (SCRHCD), Louann Heydt, Joan Mitchell and her own family.

“Now let’s build a hospital!” Hoffman proclaimed.

Doorn spoke next, recognizing the “hard work” many people put into the project over the years.

“Every step we took got us to this moment today,” he said.

Doorn thanked county commissioners for jumpstarting the process to form a hospital district, the management team at Star Valley Health – CEO Dan Ordyna and COO Mike Hunsaker – for their “expertise” and the USDA.

Doorn recalled a visit by Gov. Mark Gordon to the Pinedale Clinic in July.

“Gov. Gordon came up to me and said, ‘Sublette County is finally ready for a hospital and a new nursing home.’” Doorn remarked. “I say, ‘Yes, we are ready for that.’”

Dr. David Burnett, SCHD medical director, credited relationships across Sublette County for making the hospital a reality.

“This project’s success will continue to depend on those relationships,” he said.

Burnett reflected on Sam Cooke's famous song, “A Change is Gonna Come.”

“This groundbreaking today certainly has been a long time coming, but with the completion of this project, a change is going to come in our capabilities to meet and deliver the health-care needs of all our citizens,” Burnett said.

Dawn Walker, Sublette Center administrator, compared the process to a teambuilding exercise she attempted to lead to Sacred Rim. The group took the wrong path and ended up at Photographer’s Point as night fell.

The group “failed the mission” and turned back. The team attempted the hike weeks later with a guide and successfully reached Sacred Rim.

“When we got to see that, that’s the thing that makes you stop and go, ‘Wow, this is beautiful, this is amazing, this is important. Not everybody gets to see this.’”

Walker felt similar emotions at the groundbreaking. Despite obstacles and detours along the way, the community achieved its goal.

“We’re looking at something that has never been done before,” she said. “I, myself, am so honored, and I know that the Sublette Center Board of Directors and the SCHD board are so honored, that you have allowed us to see this vision. We are reaching new heights in health care together.”

County commission chairman Joel Bousman praised previous and current commissioners for their involvement in the process. He referred to a 1925 article in the Sublette Examiner calling for a hospital.

“About a hundred years later, we finally got that to come to fruition,” he said.

Bousman encouraged the community to support Sublette County’s “economic base” – energy, agriculture and recreation – that will provide a majority of the hospital's revenue.

Rep. Albert Sommers had the last word.

“In a time when politics doesn’t seem to seek collaboration and solutions, I think what happened in Sublette County with this hospital is truly unique and truly wonderful. What could result from this is not only a successful story on how to collaborate in the community, but it shows young families they can live here in Sublette County and promote economic diversity and better living.”

DeWitt invited the Sublette Center and SCHD boards and the commissioners to break ground with golden shovels, followed by the Star Valley management team, State Sens. Fred Baldwin and Dan Dockstader, Sommers, Mayor Matt Murdock, Doorn and Walker.

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