Three SEARHC clinics earn AAAHC accreditation

Posted: Sunday, July 12, 2009

SITKA - Three SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium Community Health Services clinics have earned a three-year accreditation from the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care Inc. Accreditation Committee.

The three SEARHC clinics earning AAAHC accreditation were the Alicia Roberts Medical Center in Klawock, the Haines Health Center and the Mt. Edgecumbe High School Student Health Center in Sitka. This was the first time the Mt. Edgecumbe High School Student Health Center has participated in the accreditation process, while the other two clinics received accreditation renewals. AAAHC accreditation is specifically for organizations that provide diagnostic or medical care on an outpatient basis, where an overnight stay is not required.

"SEARHC has a long-standing commitment to continuously improving our services," said Dr. David Vastola, SEARHC Medical Director for Community Health Services. "We believe that an objective review of our facilities through the accreditation process is an excellent means of judging our progress in this area. Overall the surveyors were highly complementary of our services while also noting opportunities for continued improvement. The high quality of our programs and successful survey process represent the concerted effort of numerous individuals."

In April, an AAAHC survey team visited the three clinics to see how they met a set of several hundred standards used to rate similar facilities across the nation. The clinics were found to be substantially compliant in all of the main AAAHC standards categories that applied to the facilities. Substantially compliant is the highest score possible. The survey report also included special accolades for SEARHC as an organization that continues to push the envelope of care in remote locations, for becoming a testing ground for modeling a care delivery system to the underserved and especially the underserved in remote locations, and to the housekeeping team at ARMC for the cleanliness of the Klawock facility.

While the Haines and Klawock facilities had been through the accreditation process before (back in 2006), this was the first time for the Mt. Edgecumbe High School clinic. SEARHC Community Health Services Administrator Cindy Baldwin-Kitka, who oversees the clinic, called accreditation "an awesome and significant achievement." She credited Mt. Edgecumbe High School administrative staff, including Bill Hutton and Paula Clayton, and SEARHC's clinic staff - Nancy Cavanaugh, Carole Knuth, Michele Mork, Kathy Eggen and Lakoda Jones - for getting the clinic prepared for the survey, even though it only had three months to prepare.

"This accreditation exemplifies SEARHC's commitment to improving the health of our Native people state-wide," Baldwin-Kitka said. "The level of care the Mt. Edgecumbe boarding students receive on campus is of the highest caliber and is comparable to other accredited health centers. What this means for SEARHC and MEHS is that we are now recognized nationally for providing the highest quality of services, which in turn will have a positive impact on these students' health as they move into their future."

SEARHC's larger Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka and its Ethel Lund Medical Center in Juneau already are accredited by The Joint Commission, while SEARHC's four substance abuse treatment programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).

More than 3,600 ambulatory health care organizations across the United States have earned AAAHC accreditation. The accreditation process is not required by law, and there are several facilities that fail to earn one of the three levels of accreditation offered by AAAHC. The types of organizations that pursue AAAHC accreditation include ambulatory and office-based surgery centers, single and multi-specialty group practices, college health centers, dental group practices, community health centers, occupational health centers, military health centers and managed care organizations. The AAAHC Web site is

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