Clinic business

Skagway voters will decide whether SEARHC will take over their health clinic, building and all | KHNS Radio

A ballot measure to decide whether or not to turn Skagway Medical Clinic over to a regional tribal health consortium could go to voters later this year. This follows a 4-2 vote Thursday night by the Skagway Assembly which negotiated with the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, known as ‘SEARHC’, to take over care health in the community.


It was nearly midnight Thursday when the Skagway assembly walked out of executive session. And they quickly set about addressing what many see as a crisis at the community health clinic which has been plagued by high turnover of medical staff and management.

Assemblyman Orion Hanson introduced the motion to put the sale of all Dahl Memorial Clinic properties, including the building, land and assets to the regional tribal health organization for a public vote.

“SEARHC seems to be kind of an all or nothing proposition. They are only interested now if they can own the building, land and all the assets and not rent them out. I was hoping there would be some kind of “opportunity for a honeymoon period, to see if it was a good fit for Skagway. Apparently SEARHC isn’t interested in that,” Hanson said.

Hanson is one of the people who believe the clinic is in crisis. There are currently five open permanent positions advertised on the municipal website and two temporary positions. The clinic employs only 16 full-time staff. Two of the vacancies include a nurse practitioner and an executive director. Recently, a long-serving RN resigned and the Acting Executive Director is no longer involved in day-to-day operations.

“I take my responsibilities. I think everyone in this assembly takes responsibility for the clinic’s failings because every two weeks we approve the review cycle. And a significant part of this part of this series of checks is related to the clinic and I know it’s a great source of pride for the community to own this building. And I feel that way too… I didn’t feel good having to make this motion to have it on the ballot for the sale of the clinic. But I don’t know what (other) options we have,” Hanson said.

The motion passed with four votes in favor and two votes against. Assemblyman Jay Burnham was in the pair of ‘no’ votes.

“I didn’t have enough information to feel comfortable sending it to voters. And also, I think that, I don’t know if that would really be a popular thing. And I would hate to waste any more time putting it to a vote,” Burnham said.

The other ‘no’ vote came from Assemblyman Sam Bass who told KHNS in a written statement that he wanted more time to consider the idea of ​​including the building and land in the deal. with the SEARHC.

Previously, talks with SEARHC had contained the possibility of leasing the property to the municipality.

The next step the assembly took was to ask the mayor to appoint two members of the assembly to sit on the clinic’s board of directors, which is made up of nine volunteer members. This board makes most of the staffing decisions for the clinic. The motion is adopted unanimously.

Hanson says the move was taken as a way to help streamline meetings and add people to the board who feel the same sense of urgency expressed at the assembly by their constituents.

“I think our feeling on the assembly is that a lot of changes needed to be made. And we hoped and were patient and waited to see how it would turn out, and it doesn’t seem to change,” Hanson said.

Then, the mayor of Skagway will make the appointments, and then the assembly will confirm them. In addition, two spots on the clinic board will need to open up to make room for new additions. This will come either from resignations or from the cancellation of appointments by the assembly. It’s still under development.

There is no official word on when the ballot measure to sell the Dahl Memorial Clinic to SEARHC would go to Skagway voters. Hanson thinks it could be as early as July or as late as October during the municipal elections.