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Under the leadership of CEO Wade Johnson, St. Peter's Health in Helena has made great strides toward its goal of becoming the gold standard of health in Montana by 2025.

One of the biggest changes we've noticed during Johnson's two years on the job is St. Peter's commitment to transparency, which is a welcome change.

The Independent Record editorial board recently met with Johnson and St. Peter's leadership and community relations team and left impressed with their openness and desire to be responsive to questions from the community about current developments, future goals and past issues. They acknowledged that billing issues have plagued patients and the hospital for years, and Johnson reiterated his commitment to solving the problem.

Johnson and his professional staff take great pride in the care and treatment patients receive at St. Peter's by the hospital and its team of physicians, nurses, and the entire staff of 1,600 employees. When asked what they wanted us to remember most about our 90-minute conversation, they said the health center's employees are its most important resources.

Regarding a recent lawsuit brought by some employees of St. Peter's and four other hospitals that owned the now out-of-business New West Health Services health insurer, Johnson said it was less costly for the hospitals to settle than allow the litigation to proceed.

St. Peter's recently embarked on a partnership with the University of Utah for telehealth and took great pride in noting that the partnership has already proved highly beneficial for a couple of patients who had strokes. St. Peter's physicians were able to consult with UU physicians via the telehealth system for the appropriate treatment and the patients and their families were well-served.

When questioned about recent criticism of St. Peter's decision to launch a new clinic in Townsend, Johnson explained that St. Peter's aims to better-serve the many Townsend residents who are driving thousands of miles annually for care in Helena and has no intention of creating problems for the existing health center in their community. The St. Peter's clinic in Townsend will also provide opportunities for patients to be seen by specialists on a rotating schedule.

St. Peter's is also striving to reach out to Helena and surrounding communities as a resource for overall improved health and wellness. As examples, Johnson and his team pointed to a new partnership with Helena Food Share and one St. Peter's is developing with the YMCA.

As Johnson noted, St. Peter's has many resources to offer the community. To demonstrate its commitment to a healthy community, he said St. Peter's encourages employees to be engaged and volunteer for community service and pays each employee to complete four hours of community service annually.

It has been great to see all of the positive changes taking place at St. Peter’s, and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for this critical community asset.

This is the opinion of the Independent Record editorial board. 

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