President’s Update for Aug. 21, 2010

In this edition...

Final FY2011 negotiations complete with IHS: This week we completed our annual negotiations with the Indian Health Service (IHS). My apologies in advance to the Board for the level of specifics as I try to summarize several long days related to these topics. This round of meetings was continued from June when the tribal co-signers to the Alaska Tribal Health Compact suspended negotiations. The negotiations were suspended until agreement could be reached about implementation of provisions to the permanently reauthorized Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA). Language was agreed upon between the IHS and the caucus on:
  • inclusion of language to prevent contract health providers from taking action against patients for an authorized contract health expense;
  • federal tort claims act coverage related to privileged providers in our facilities;
  • assistance with access to federal insurance (if desired) for tribal health organizations;
  • defining that IHS and tribes are the payer of last resort (after Medicare, Medicaid, VA, etc.); and
  • standards for health services as the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act may expand beyond the IHS into other agencies [also known generically as “Title VI”].
We look forward to providing a summary at our September meeting. While in Anchorage, we also attended the memorial service for Sen. Ted Stevens. It was an honor to attend this service. The service had overflow into adjoining rooms and local cinemas, and it was televised on Alaskawide TV stations. SEARHC, Sitka Tribe of Alaska promote Native hire on hospital project: SEARHC and Sitka Tribe of Alaska are working together to promote Native hire on the construction project in progress at Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital. The general contractor (McGraw Custom Construction) and all sub-contractors hired by McGraw must supply an Indian Preference Plan for approval by SEARHC, STA and the STA Tribal Employee Rights Office (STA/TERO) before they can start work on the year-long project. A limited number of positions are exempt from Native preference (owners and one core employee per company), but all other positions are considered preference positions. The contractor and each sub-contractor submit all job listings to SEARHC and STA/TERO before they are filled. STA/TERO has a database listing Alaska Natives/American Indians, broken down by skill and trade, and so far STA/TERO has referred more than 15 applicants. The STA Tribal Council has received concerns about the number of preference positions on the project. Currently the overall positions available for Native hire (including exempt owners and core staff) is 50 percent Native, and for preference positions it is 93 percent Native. We take Native hire very seriously, and we will continue to work closely with STA to make sure all contractors and sub-contractors have an approved Indian Preference Plan before we accept them to work on this project. Any tribal citizens, Alaska Natives or American Indians living in Sitka who want to join the STA/TERO skills bank should call the STA Education and Employment Department at (907) 747-3207. Veterans Affairs visit to SEARHC: Representatives from the Anchorage and Vancouver Veterans Affairs (VA) office met with us on Friday. The VA is looking at ways to expand services to Veterans in the region. In addition to considering collaborations, the VA is working in Western Alaska on a demonstration project to allow veterans to receive services from the tribal health system. We asked that this demonstration be expanded to SEARHC. The VA will open a limited outpatient clinic in Juneau this fall with a single provider. While we believe this will improve access to VA services within the region, allowing tribal members to see their regular provider while assuring/coordinating VA benefits is a far better solution. Tribal veterans could then choose to stay with their primary care provider or select the VA clinic. As an example, the latest information is there will be a single medical physician at the new VA Clinic in Juneau, while we have over 50 medical primary care providers (physician through health practitioner) throughout the region. Additionally, we discussed efforts to increase the enrollment of eligible veterans (currently projected at around 10 percent of eligible veterans). Rep. Don Young’s legislative assistant, Holly Croft, visits Sitka and Juneau: On Wednesday, Aug. 18, Holly Croft, a legislative assistant for Rep. Don Young, made her first trip to Sitka. She was given a tour of Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital by Frank Sutton and other staff, who talked with her about SEARHC’s needs in regards to the Frontier Extended Stay Clinic, our new Hoonah facility and resolving our use of FAA-owned land on Biorka Island by the Raven’s Way program (some structures we use are scheduled to be torn down by the FAA). Holly then went to Juneau, where Dr. Janice Sheufelt gave her a tour of the Ethel Lund Medical Center, discussed the need to reauthorize diabetes funding for Natives, inclusion of tribes in certain obligated payback time for health professionals, and gave her an update on our systems transformation project. Juneau road construction may cause delays to Ethel Lund Medical Center: On Friday, Aug. 20, an areawide paving project started work on Salmon Creek Lane (two days earlier than scheduled). This project should be completed by Thursday, Aug. 26. Construction crews are removing the existing roadway pavement, reshaping the existing base and placing new asphalt pavement with fog seal coat. The contractor, SECON, is planning to allow emergency vehicles unrestricted access to the medical clinics. There will be sign crews on the construction site, and we’ve been told there may be short delays of 5-10 minutes for people needing to travel along Salmon Creek Road. They are doing the paving lane by lane, so the only time there may be a longer delay is if the paving crew is right in front of a turn into a parking lot. Please allow yourself this extra time to get to the clinic if you have an appointment this week. Alaska Federal Health Care Partnership visits SEARHC: Members of the Alaska Federal Health Care Partnership (AFHCP) executive committee visited Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital on Thursday (Aug. 19) and the Ethel Lund Medical Center on Friday (Aug. 20). Dr. Marty Grasmeder gave them a tour of the facility, and then Dr. David Vastola, Dr. Grasmeder and Denise Hodnett spent some time describing SEARHC’s structure, mission and programs. Dr. Sheufelt met with the team on Friday at the ELMC. The director of the AFHCP and members of the home telehealth monitoring equipment met with executive staff in Juneau. The AFHCP brings together military and tribal health agencies so they can share resources and expertise about the best ways to provide quality health care throughout Alaska. The AFHCP also supports the demonstration project to put home telehealth monitoring equipment in Kake. This next week, AFHCP staff will install several units in Klawock. SEARHC, Bartlett Regional Hospital mobile mammograms kicks off summer/fall schedule: The Summer/Fall 2010 mobile mammogram season opens this week when the mobile mammography van visits Hoonah on Aug. 23-27 to kick things off. The van also will visit Haines on Aug. 30-Sept. 13, Skagway on Sept. 14-17, Klawock on Sept. 22-Oct. 8, Craig on Oct. 11-12 and Metlakatla on Oct. 14-22. This list gives women the dates the mobile mammogram van will be in town, and specific appointment times will be available from the local clinic. The mobile mammography program is run through a partnership between Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau and the SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program. Between the spring and summer/fall seasons, the van provides about 800-900 women in nine communities with regular mammography screening services in places where the services aren’t available year round. For more information, contact your local clinic or call the SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program at 966-8782 in Sitka or 1-888-388-8782 (toll-free in Alaska), send an e-mail to, or go online at Rally For The Cure golf tournament raises money, awareness for breast cancer programs: On Saturday, Aug. 14, in Haines, 32 golfers got together at the Valley of the Eagles Golf Links and Driving Range to raise awareness and money for breast cancer programs. This event, which was co-hosted by the SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program, raised $1,200 for the Susan G. Komen For The Cure Foundation. SEARHC Health Promotion to offer free health screenings in Haines: The SEARHC Health Promotion program will offer free health screenings for adults (ages 18 or older) on Sept. 1-2 in Haines. The health screenings are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2:30-6 p.m. on both Wednesday and Thursday (Sept. 1-2) at the Chilkat Center for the Arts, located on the grounds for Fort William H. Seward. Participants are encouraged to call early to schedule 20-minute appointment, though walk-in patients will be seen when there are gaps in the schedule. The screenings feature a simple blood test that gives people their non-fasting glucose, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and blood pressure results. To schedule an appointment, contact Mandy Ramsey at 766-6317. Reminder: SEARHC hosts a toll-free, 24/7 crisis help line at 1-877-294-0074: A personal or family crisis doesn’t always happen during clinic hours, so the SEARHC Behavioral Health Division has contracted with a crisis call center to provide help for Southeast Alaska residents when they need it most. The SEARHC Help Line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and it is staffed with a team of master’s-degree-level mental health therapists who will listen and provide effective, compassionate care. This line provides confidential telephone counseling for people during a time of mental health crisis, and it is not just an answering service. The counselors will assess the situation and provide appropriate intervention using protocols developed with SEARHC Behavioral Health. Follow-up calls from SEARHC Behavioral Health or our partner agencies will be made the next business day. For more information, contact SEARHC Behavioral Health Prevention Program Director Wilbur Brown at 966-8753. Regards, Roald