Quality care, close to home By Abigail Thorpe | Photo by Rachel Adair
When Erin Binnall moved to North Idaho in 2001 and met her husband, she knew North Idaho was home. Her introduction to health care came while working as a candy striper volunteering at a hospital in her hometown outside of Chicago.
After moving to North Idaho, she obtained her degree in healthcare administration and started a career in community health. She would join Bonner General Health in 2017, where she found a warm, hometown hospital committed to the community’s needs. When she’s not working, you can find her with her family, hiking, walking their French bulldogs, and enjoying time with family and friends.
Q. What have been some of the most exciting achievements or moments over the past year at BGH, and what do you hope to accomplish or see happen in the coming year? A. There are always challenges in health care, especially in a rural community. Our population expands over 3,000 square miles of rural mountainous terrain, making [prompt] access to quality health care essential to saving lives in North Idaho. With increased patient volume, a significant highlight of 2021 is the collaboration of Bonner General’s employees coming together and working in different areas to support each other and ensure patient care is a priority.
We have seen people working in various departments, extra shifts, and volunteering their free time to support each other and the community we are proud to serve. Additional highlights are the increased partnerships with our regional medical community, being the recipient of the Sunderland Foundation grant of $200,000 toward our Emergency Department remodel, and a successful first-time virtual Heart Ball with overwhelming support from our community. I hope to see the same community support, teamwork and kindness in the upcoming year.
Q. How are BGH and the Foundation such an integral part of our Sandpoint community, and what does it mean to you to be a part of that? A. We are available when high-level trauma or stroke patients need stabilizing to get them to the right place at the right time to receive the right level of care. The Foundation is integral to raise donations and financially assist each department, various hospital programs, and develop new and existing services.
In addition, the Foundation Board meets quarterly with an Advisory Council comprised of 65 locals who represent a broad range of interests in the community. The purpose is to act as “two-way communicators,” receiving updates from the hospital and providing feedback from their network of employees, family, friends and neighbors. I have been working in health care for over 20 years and am honored to be a part of a team that prioritizes enhancing, educating and sustaining a healthy community.
Q. What sets BGH apart as a small-town hospital and health advocate, how it defines its mission and how it helps care for the community? A. As an independent hospital, we can remain firmly anchored to our mission, the people we serve and the community we love. We can address a need even if it isn’t a sound financial decision when we see a need—for example, behavioral health. We needed a psychiatrist in Sandpoint. We developed the business plan, and even though we knew it wasn’t a financially prudent decision, it was the right decision for the community. As an independent hospital, we can make those decisions. In addition, our Board of Directors is made up of local people who are committed to providing high-quality care and keeping an independent community hospital.
Q. If you could sum up what the BGH community means to you, what would that be? A. I think what speaks to me the most about the BGH community is the longevity of our employees. We choose to live and work in this community because of the quality of life and the ability to care for our friends and neighbors. Each day I come to work, I am greeted with a friendly smile. Just knowing if I needed anything personally or professionally, I am surrounded by caring, compassionate team members.
Q. How is community support and involvement essential to the success of Bonner General Health and the Foundation, and what does this look like? A. Community support is essential to the success of BGH and the Foundation because it broadens our perspective and understanding of how we might be more effective in helping the individuals we care for. Our goal is for Bonner General to be a catalyst that serves others first to create a lasting, positive impact on Bonner County at large. Each contribution assists the Foundation in its quest to help provide local, quality health care.
Q. What current/future developments are you most excited about for BGH? A. I am excited about the continued growth of services and resources we can provide to our community. I am also looking forward to continuing our partnerships with community organizations that offer help and opportunities in line with our Community Health Needs Assessment specific to obesity, mental health/suicide, substance abuse, and abuse and neglect.
Q. Is there a specific person or moment that has helped define who you are today and your work and vision with BGH and the Foundation? A. Several people and experiences have helped define who I am today and my work and vision in health care, but the main person would be my dad. When my dad was 35 years old, he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. There has not been one day that he has had in the last 36 years where he has woken up and used this debilitating disease as an excuse not to live his best life. So, work hard, be kind, and what you take from your community, find opportunities to give back.