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After 33 years, long time CFVH employee retires

Thursday, February 27, 2014

by Ed Moreth, The Sanders County Ledger

A Plains woman retired Thursday after more than 33 years of service at Clark Fork Valley Hospital. Nearly 50 people crowded into the Clark Fork and Spoon Conference Room to help celebrate the retirement of Helen Ovitt, manager of the hospital's Patient Billing Services and Medical Records Departments.

It was a double celebration day for Ovitt, who turned 64 years old on the same day. Photographs of Ovitt from different stages of her time at CFVH were scattered around the room and the hospital cafeteria cooks made an assortment of goodies for Ovitt and the staff.

Dr. Gregory Hanson, CFVH president and CEO, kicked off the festivities by saying that one of the best things about a "roast" is seeing the old pictures of Ovitt, but he added that one of the worst things was seeing that he was also in a lot of those old photos. He also ribbed Ovitt by mentioning that when she started at CFVH, he was in junior high school.

Carla Neiman, the chief financial officer and Ovitt's supervisor, gave the retiree more than a dozen gag gifts, starting with a giant spoon that Neiman said was not for cooking, but to keep Ovitt's husband, Dennis, who attended the retirement party, out of the kitchen. Neiman said that in case Ovitt wants to travel, she gave her old travel guides for Alaska and Canada. She was also given coffee, a mug, and coffee making instructions, in case she forgot how to made it.

In the event Ovitt wants to start sewing, Neiman gave her some old clothes that need mending. And because Ovitt was responsible for the billing department, Neiman presented her with a handful of old complaint letters the hospital received. She also received an alarm clock with a broken alarm. Neiman said the staff also gave Ovitt real presents in the form of gift cards.

"The best part of the job was the people," said Ovitt. She said that one of the toughest parts of the job was keeping up with technology advances. She began with a typewriter, then went to a word processor, and eventually a computer. The move to Epic electronics records system was a big change in her job. Ovitt noted that changes in the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) was also a challenge. "Helen did patient confidentiality even before it was cool," said Neiman. "She was called sheriff because nothing left her department without her knowing about it," she added.

Ovitt began at CFVH on Sept. 1, 1980, as a transcriptionist in the administration and records departments, although she said she worked mostly in records. Her primary job was to transcribe all the doctors' handwritten notes and reports. She became the revenue cycle manager in charge of the records and billing department in March 1997.

The Plains native received her associate's degree from the Salish Kootenai College in Pablo in 2001, then passed the test to become a Registered Health Information Technician. In addition to taking classes at SKC, she taught classes there in the health information program, as well as medical office clerk classes, at the same time.

"I will miss my job and especially the people I worked with," said Ovitt. "We've become like a family." She has no immediate plans, but would like to spend more time with her five grandchildren.

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