SEARHC begins project to replace Angoon medical clinic

Posted: Wednesday, August 29, 2001

The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium began design work this month on a new medical clinic in Angoon. Groundbreaking is planned for spring 2002.

The existing Angoon clinic is the oldest and one of the most inadequate village clinics in Southeast Alaska, said SEARHC President Ken Brewer. He characterized the current facility as "critically undersized and overcrowded" and no longer fit to meet the health needs of the 626 Angoon residents.

The new facility will be nearly 7,000 square feet - triple the size of the existing clinic, said Mark Gorman, SEARHC's vice president for Community Health Services. He estimates the cost of construction at about $2 million. "But construction cost for remote sites has been going up."

The existing clinic originally was built to support the work of two community health aides. Currently, six full-time SEARCH providers and a half-time mid-level practitioner are needed to meet community medical and mental health demands.

"We are really being held hostage by the size of the current facility as to how many staff we can have in Angoon," Gorman said. When the new clinic is completed, a full-time nurse practitioner will be added to the staff "to increase the level of service there."

SEARHC's efforts to replace the aging clinic got a boost two years ago from a $100,000 gift from the Paul Allen Charitable Foundation. Brewer said the project would not have been possible without the initial support of the Seattle foundation. "The Paul Allen grant has provided leverage for us to raise additional funds for the project from the Denali Commission."

The federally funded Denali Commission gave $200,000 in design money, Gorman said, and will probably give more for other construction phases. He also expects financial aid from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development fund.

The Angoon clinic project marks a departure from the traditional method of financing village health-care delivery, Brewer said. Faced with federal Indian Health Service funding that has not kept pace with the increased cost of providing service, SEARHC has had to look for other sources of financing. Only about 60 percent of the cost of delivering care to Native people in Southeast is being covered by IHS, Brewer added.

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneauempire.

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