More than 1,000 residents from around San Juan County joined Utah Navajo Health System administrators and staff in their Fifteen-Year Anniversary Celebration on October 9 in Montezuma Creek.
When UNHS first opened its doors with a single clinic in Montezuma Creek, and a handful of employees and providers, in 2000, no one was sure what to expect from this new healthcare organization. Fifteen years later, UNHS has added three more Community Health Centers in Blanding, Monument Valley and Navajo Mountain and a Dental office in Blanding. They also provide quality dental services in Montezuma Creek, Monument Valley and Navajo Mountain. UNHS has an award-winning Emergency Medical Services Department – with ambulances in Montezuma Creek and Monument Valley and a staff of well trained, professional EMT's, Advanced EMT's and even two Paramedics to serve the people on the Utah Strip of the Navajo Reservation. Add to this nearly 300 dedicated, professional staff and providers, who work tirelessly to provide the finest quality healthcare possible, and a Board of Directors whose mission is to provide support to the organization, and you have one of the best healthcare systems operating today.
In addition, UNHS has an ongoing affiliation with University of Utah Health Care. This affiliation allows for specialty providers from the University of Utah Hospital to visit UNHS patients in San Juan County at the Blanding Family Practice Community Health Center. UNHS patients also receive free vision screenings and cataract treatment, for those who quality, from University of Utah's Moran Eye Center. UNHS also has access to Telemedical care in it's local clinics from UUHC specialists, making it possible for patients to receive top-quality health care consultations without having to travel to Salt Lake City.
"When UNHS first started there were eighteen employees and staff," UNHS Physicians Assistant Fred Riggs told those gathered for the celebration. "Recently we had a retreat and we were told there are 275 staff at UNHS. This organization has definitely grown. When we first started there were just Dr. Jones and I treating patients, covering Montezuma Creek, Monument Valley, Navajo Mountain and Blanding."
San Juan County Commissioner Rebecca Benally attended the celebration and spoke highly of the UNHS organization.
"It's innovative. It was a vision and a dream and it happened. They do a good job and they cater to the community," Benally said. "They stay open until 8:00 pm and there's employees that can go there after work. I'm really proud of the UNHS employees and the board members, and Donna Singer (former UNHS CEO) for a long time. She's told me the history and I think more is going to happen. It's innovative and it directly serves the needs of the community."
To honor the UNHS staff, providers and patients, the Fifteen-Year Celebration had a carnival-like atmosphere with games and activities for everyone, live entertainment and food for over 1,000 people. Most of the activities were held on land where UNHS plans to build a new 34,000 square-foot, two-story community health center, just north of the Montezuma Creek Elementary School. Wilfred Jones, a UNHS Board member since 2000, said it's exciting to see the growth of UNHS over the last fifteen years, and he called the new community health center building, 'the next step."
Harriet Lansing, a UNHS Board member since 2002, also attended the celebration.
"I think this is awesome. We love the community health center and we appreciate it," Lansing said. "It's a community clinic and the people really enjoy the service. It's here, it's local and they don't have to travel for it. That's the main thing. We do provide quality health care for them and we provide a lot of services, specialty services that others don't provide."
UNHS CEO Michael Jensen called the Fifteen-Year Celebration a success and praised the UNHS staff for going the extra mile to make it a great event.
"All the staff participated and we had great staff support. Garrett Holly organized things and was in charge, but all the staff did a great job. I think was a good event," Jensen said. "We served food to 1,000 people, but it didn't feel as busy as other celebrations because the area we used was so much bigger. We tried to do things this year that hadn't been done in the past. There were activities for kids, we had comedians and other entertainment, a dunking booth and games and it was more like carnival. We had 15 large sheet cakes and we used them all. It was nice to serve food out of EMS building (across the street from the carnival activities)."
Everyone seemed to have a great time at this year's celebration, and the UNHS administration and staff look forward to the coming year with construction of the new community health center in Montezuma Creek and the new clinic in Blanding. Both projects will begin by next spring and both are expected to be completed by the end of 2017.
UNHS has made a huge difference in the lives of San Juan County residents and all indications point to continued success, which means the healthcare services for UNHS patients will only improve in the years to come. With a new Mission Statement like: "We exist to improve your quality of life through comprehensive, self-empowered, culturally-sensitive healthcare and amazing customer service," how can you go wrong?
"Our staff asked the Board of Directors if we could change our mission statement and this is what they came up with. It says a lot about who we are and where we want to get to," Jensen said. "We want to live by amazing customer service. That's what it talks about. We want to become consistently amazing."