Nunam Iqua village clinic closing as workers quit

Posted: Monday, April 12, 2010

ANCHORAGE - The clinic in the Western Alaska village of Nunam Iqua is closing because the three workers - two health aides and an office assistant - are quitting due to threats and a hostile environment.

The Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corp. says the village of 200 near the mouth of the Yukon River needs police to protect medical workers and control alcohol.

CEO Gene Peltola told The Anchorage Daily News the workers are fearful of harm.

"I'm not going to put an employee in a position where they could be hurt," he said.

There are no police or Alaska state troopers consistently on duty to protect medical workers called to crime scenes.

The health corporation will send medical workers only when troopers are in town. Meanwhile, calls for help will be answered at the clinic in Emmonak, 18 miles away. A medevac plane will be sent to take seriously injured people to Bethel.

Nunam Iqua needs police officers, said Gloria Abraham, a clinic office worker and former health aide for the village.

"Our health aides are willing to go back to work, I am too, if we do get that law enforcement."

When a woman cut her mother's head with an ulu knife and tried to cut her own wrist in March, a health aide was called to the home while the alleged attacker was upset and yelling. Troopers didn't arrive until the next day.

Nunam Iqua was historically the site of summer fish camps on the south fork of the Yukon, according to the state Division of Community and Regional Affairs. Formerly known as Sheldon Point, residents voted in 1999 to change the name of the Yup'ik village.

Efforts to hire a village police officer have been unsuccessful and the local grocery store has closed, said Bill Schreiner, head of the community health aide program.

Health corporation officials, the head of the village public safety officer program for the region and troopers met last week with Nunam Iqua community leaders.

A tribal meeting followed this week, and more meetings are in the works in an effort to reopen the clinic, said Lt. David Tracy of the Bethel trooper post.



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