Lost Rivers Medical Center in Arco has emerged from the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic with plans to expand, according to CEO Brad Huerta.
"We are looking at expanding our surgical service lines, our telemedicine program and upgrading the entire facilities HVAC system," Huerta said.
The upgrades will be funded by the hospital's revenue.
Like any other hospital, Lost Rivers was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It was a long and horrific journey," Huerta said. "We struggled like every other organization."
He explained that in the early days of the pandemic, one of the worst parts was the uncertainty that came with it.
"We weren't sure what we were dealing with," he said. "It was a tough two years."
Another difficult part of the pandemic was the early scarcity of resources. They didn't always have enough testing equipment, and sometimes members of the staff became sick, leaving the hospital short on staff.
"Every day it was very hard to come to work," said Huerta. "What was hard was that we usually knew the people who were sick. But we are glad that it looks like it's behind us now."
Despite the difficulty caused by the pandemic, Lost Rivers was always able to keep its doors open and keep their services going.
The hospital is the main healthcare provider for the Arco and Mackay areas.
Lost Rivers was established in 1958 by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. It is a critical access hospital that became a taxing district in 1972. Huerta became the hospital's CEO in 2013.
"We are a trauma center," Huerta said. "We have a 24-hour emergency room and an operating room. We do some specialty services such as cardiology and mental health services."
After Huerta assumed leadership, Lost Rivers became Idaho's first critical access hospital to have a Level IV Trauma Center. In 2014, they were also the first hospital in the state to have completely cloud-based electronic medical records.
"Right now that's standard," said Huerta about the medical records. "But back then, we were the only ones."
Huerta is originally from Pocatello where he worked at Portneuf Medical Center for about 10 years before moving to Lost Rivers. Now he lives in Arco but still occasionally teaches classes at Idaho State University. He described the difference between working at a larger hospital and a smaller one.
"The difference is dramatic between larger and smaller hospitals," he said. "You have to have a desire to help people and a mindset to do something good."
Huerta explained that what he loves about working in a smaller hospital is that you can really have a positive impact and make real change in your community.
"I always tell new people that you could make a lot of money or you can make a difference," he said. "That's why people go into the medical field: to make a difference."
Lost Rivers Medical Center is also a great place for medical students to gain experience. They offer internships and plenty of job opportunities for anyone looking to work in the medical industry. Huerta explained that they are the largest job provider in Butte and Custer counties.
More information about Lost Rivers Medical Center can be found on their website.