Hoonah clinic, SEARHC sign off on agreement

Plan details how medical care will be divided between the two

Posted: Monday, March 27, 2000

Medical professionals serving Hoonah have finally agreed on who does what.

An agreement signed last week formalizes the relationship between the clinic in Hoonah and the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium.

``It just puts it all on paper - our roles, our responsibilities,'' said Ken Grant, president of the Hoonah Indian Association. ``It was something that needed to be done.''

Since the Hoonah Indian Association took over the clinic in 1996 there has been some uncertainty over which services SEARHC would continue to provide.

``My biggest fear was that we'd lose a life because of poor communication,'' Grant said.

SEARHC and the Hoonah Indian Association spent two years working on the four-page agreement. The agreement details what support services SEARHC provides, from paraprofessional training to medevac services. It sets up a procedure for SEARHC doctors to work with the practitioners at the Hoonah clinic, said Ken Brewer, SEARHC Senior Vice President.

``Without a memorandum of agreement there was a lack of clear understanding as to who had responsibility for services,'' Brewer said.

The agreement also specifies how frequently SEARHC will send dentists, optometrists, audiologists and other specialists to Hoonah each year.

``These are minimum levels of service, with a commitment by SEARHC to increase those at any time resources will allow,'' Brewer said, ``but at the same time the commitment Hoonah made was that the level of service in Hoonah will be similar to other communities in Southeast.''

SEARHC is working on similar agreements in Yakutat and Ketchikan, where the local tribes also took over their clinics. The discussions in Ketchikan were disrupted by Ketchikan Indian Corp.'s ongoing attempt to keep hospital patients and the federal funding for them in Ketchikan, rather than sending them to SEARHC's Mount Edgecumbe hospital in Sitka.

Ketchikan Indian Corp. business manager Marly Edenso said that group is still interested in working out an agreement with SEARHC.

``Hopefully we could come up with some kind of agreement that would solve the whole issue,'' Edenso said. ``We have made some progress, but the last time we met there were still some significant issues.''

One of the main issues related to Prince of Wales patients who would rather go to Ketchikan than Sitka for medical care. The answer may be having the two medical groups bill each other for patients they treat from outside their area, Edenso said.

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