Community Medical, Billings Clinic partner in new Missoula heart and vascular center

Dr. Dean French, CEO of Community Medical Center, announces the hospital’s new partnership with the Billings Clinic to create a new heart and vascular center in Missoula. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

Community Medical Center employees joined staff from Billings Clinic in Missoula on Thursday to unveil a new partnership between the two organizations aimed at improving cardiac care across the state.

The newly established Billings Clinic Heart and Vascular at Community Medical Center brings the Billings-based program and its acclaimed services to Missoula, along with other outlying communities in western Montana, including Ronan.

“One of the most important ways we can make sure people are getting the care that they deserve is to develop high-quality care in the area they will receive it, and in the communities where they live,” said Randall Gibb, the CEO of Billings Clinic. “It’s an opportunity for our two organizations to grow stronger and closer together, and more importantly, to bring high-access cardiac care to the region.”

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death among men and women in the U.S., killing an estimated one in four people annually. In Montana, it consistently ranks among the top two most common causes of death.

Dr. Dean French, CEO of Community Medical Center, said Montana’s aging population will make cardiac care essential in the coming years. While the state’s population grows by 2 or 3 percent each year, those over the age of 55 dominate that growth.

“As CMC looked at that fact, we recognized that we need to step in and provide increased services for cardiovascular care in our region,” French said. “Treating patients with cardiovascular disease is complex, with new techniques and technologies changing regularly. We want to ensure we’re providing high-quality specialists to deliver the most advanced care to our patients.”

Community Medical has provided heart and vascular care for 15 years, but when faced with the state’s changing demographics and the prevalence of heart disease, it began searching for a partner to help grow its cardiac services.

French said it found that partner in the Billings Clinic, which comes highly accredited in cardiac care. Among the accolades, it was ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the No. 1 hospital in Montana.

“In time, it became obvious that our partner was already our partner, and that was Billings Clinic,” said French. “This partnership will offer us the ability to care for cardiac patients across Missoula and western Montana, access a nationally accredited program, as well as provide addition resources to minimize patient wait times.”

The new Heart and Vascular program at CMC provides full-time interventional and clinical cardiac services, including a catheter lab, heart-attack care and cardiac rehabilitation.

The program will be headed by Drs. Robert Minor and Douglas Waldo, both serving alongside Community Medical’s existing team of nurse practitioners, doctors and other specialists. Both hospital partners believe the program will expand to meet the region’s growing needs.

“We’ve built Montana’s longest-running and most comprehensive heart center in the state,” said Gibb. “The new Heart and Vascular program at CMC will offer patients throughout the region access to new options for outstanding care.”