Gove County Medical Center serving entire region

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QUINTER — It might take a village to raise a child, but it takes a strong medical facility to help care for all those people in the village.

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QUINTER — It might take a village to raise a child, but it takes a strong medical facility to help care for all those people in the village.

That’s one of the goals Gove County Medical Center in Quinter is proven it is capable of doing throughout the last several decades.

“I always get a kick out of the maps that show which counties are underserved by doctors,” said Dr. Shelly Gruenbacher. “Of course, Gove County is not on it because we have five. And if you look at the population of Gove County, it’s not very big. But we are still actively recruiting for help because if you look at the catchment area, we draw from surrounding counties — and we do need help.”

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While the medical facility is in the small town of Quinter, it serves a large area and population. It’s not uncommon to see people from Ness County, Oakley and beyond at the hospital and Bluestem Medical Center seeking treatment for a variety of ailments.

“People will come to town to go to the doctor, and hopefully they’ll stop and get their car washed or go to the pharmacy,” Gruenbacher said.

Gruenbacher grew up in Stockton and her husband, Doug — also a doctor in Quinter — grew up between Andale and Colwich in south-central Kansas.

When the opportunity came to practice in a small town, the two jumped at the chance.

“A lot of places will fall into a stop-gap, where people will come and be a bridge until someone else comes,” said Gruenbacher, who along with her husband did rural rotations in Quinter during medical school. “Once you lose someone, it’s hard to get them back. And it’s hard to recruit new doctors when you don’t have a good base. It was important to us when we came here because you don’t know everything when you finish your residency. It was important for us to be able to bounce stuff off our older partners. And we still do that, and they bounce things off us. That was huge to us to have that mentoring, rather than being out here flying by the seat of our pants on our own.”

Dr. Michael Machen was instrumental in the Gruenbachers making a successful leap to Quinter. And he — along with Dr. Victor Nemechek — brought a wealth of experience to the facility. Nemechek recently made a move to Sheridan County Health Complex in Hoxie full-time.

“It’s unusual in this day and age to find people with the same goal and vision as the hospital board, administration, doctors, nurses and anciliary care,” Machen said. “There’s not a lot of egos. We’ve been blessed with an overabundance of caring people.”

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Machen has been in the medical arena in Quinter for more than 29 years.

“I’m happy with what we’re doing,” Machen said. “It’s been the best job in the world. It’s been a good run for Nemechek and I. And Doug and Shelly have brought a youthful enthusiasm to the group, and it’s great.”

The medical world has changed in the past few decades, and so too has Gove County Medical Center. But one thing that remains the same is the commitment to patients.

That includes being one of the few hospitals in northwest Kansas that still delivers babies.

“Families that know they can deliver a baby here, as long as there’s not something real complicated, that their kids can go to the ER here and get their well checks, that’s a big deal,” Gruenbacher said. “The clinic and the hospital are co-dependent.”

The medical center has remained a constant success in the area, and has provided numerous jobs for the region as well.

“The trickle down on a good medical facility is that we’re probably the highest payroll employer in the county,” Machen said. “There’s some pride and knowledge of how you get good care here. We’ve kept up with training and new technologies to stay ahead.”

Nick Schwien has worked at The Hays Daily News since 1997. He's married to Jessica and has two children, Brenna and Kale.