President’s Update for June 26, 2010

In this edition...

Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) warning released for Southeast Alaska: Two Southeast Alaska residents have died of suspected paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) — a Juneau woman who ate cockles gathered at the Point Louisa end of Auke Bay and a Haines man who ate Dungeness crab gathered near the Chilkat Inlet of Lynn Canal. There also have been three people in Kodiak who were sickened by PSP after eating butter clams. If confirmed, these will be Alaska’s first deaths to PSP since 1997, but there are people who get sick from PSP about every year. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and Alaska Department of Health and Social Services both caution about eating subsistence and recreational shellfish harvested on “uncertified” beaches in Alaska. The state takes the lead on getting the word out about PSP, but because of the health implications we have added a page to the SEARHC website, http://www.searhc.org/, with safety warnings, first aid and other information about PSP. SEARHC Board holds quarterly meeting: Our Board of Directors met last week in Juneau. The Board’s Strategic Planning Committee met to identify priorities for the upcoming fiscal year budget as well as developing the work plan for updating our five-year priorities. The Accreditation Governing Body heard reports on our health programs from across the consortium. The full Board met Thursday and Friday for its regular business. The Board will meet in August for a special budget meeting and in September for regular business. Skagway’s new community health center opens: On Saturday, June 26, Skagway celebrated the opening of the E.A. and Jenny Rasmuson Community Health Center. The Skagway Traditional Council was invited to participate in the dedication ceremony. An open house for the clinic and reception followed the dedication and ribbon-cutting event. SEARHC is working with Skagway for itinerant physician and dental services in the new facility. Veterans Administration pledges to improve care for rural veterans: The Veterans Administration made a verbal commitment to improve care to rural veterans during a June 16th hearing with the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chaired by Sen. Mark Begich. The VA also said it will work closely with Indian Health Service over the next several months. The hearing about VA Health Care in Rural Areas and it featured testimony from three Alaska witnesses about delivering health care to Alaska’s veterans — Dan Winkelman, vice president and general counsel of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp., Brig. Gen. Deborah McManus, assistant adjutant general and commander of the Alaska National Guard, and Verdie Bowen, director of Alaska’s Office of Veterans Affairs. Because there are few VA facilities in rural areas, the three witnesses said rural veterans should have access to IHS-funded facilities in their communities instead of having to travel to VA facilities in Anchorage or Fairbanks, and for the VA to provide reimbursement later. In addition to receiving treatment closer to home, collaborating with IHS-funded facilities will save both rural veterans and the VA money and time. There is a possibility of a meeting in August of the Alaska Rural Health Pilot Project, which will involve officials from tribal and VA health programs. CDC visit checks out SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program: A team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention visited Sitka and Angoon this week to check out how the SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program integrated its WISEWOMAN heart health program with its breast and cervical health program. The team, which included the CDC project officers for WISEWOMAN and Breast and Cervical Health, described it as “a model of integration” and they want to share our story with other grant recipients. They said the trip to Angoon was very educational to them and helped them better understand the difficulties of delivering health care in rural Alaska. They are very interested in our systems transformation project and how it will impact our grant programs. They encouraged us to document our experiences, both challenges and successes, with the transition to an electronic health record. We were asked to make a presentation on the transition at the annual grant meetings. SEARHC Dental helps Yakutat Community Health Center open new dental facility: SEARHC dentists Dr. Tom Bornstein and Dr. John Sohonage in mid-June attended the grand opening of the new dental facility at the Yakutat Community Health Center. Dr. Sohonage called it “an impressive clinic, which the community is quite proud of.” The new clinic also supports Yakutat’s Dental Health Aide Therapist, Sheena Nelson, who completed part of her training at the SEARHC Juneau Dental Clinic. SEARHC Behavioral Health to host sobriety picnic July 3 in Douglas: The SEARHC Behavioral Health Division will host a sobriety picnic starting at noon on Friday, July 3, at Sandy Beach in Douglas. Hot dogs, hamburgers and snacks will be provided. Please bring your favorite side dishes and alcohol-free beverages. This event will last until we finish, and there will be lots of food and fun. For more information, contact Toni Weber at 463-6670. Ethel Lund Medical Center hires two new family physicians: The Ethel Lund Medical Center hired Drs. Brian and Mimi Benjamin, husband-and-wife physicians who have been working with teaching hospitals in North Carolina. Dr. Mimi Benjamin has an extensive background in quality improvement, including experience with electronic health record implementation and improvement. Dr. Brian Benjamin is a member of the American Geriatrics Society and very experienced with caring for elders. He also has been an executive with several medical software companies. Dr. Mimi Benjamin will start work at SEARHC in July, while Dr. Brian Benjamin will start work in September after he finishes a contract with Duke University. SEARHC, Bartlett Regional Hospital mobile mammograms finishes spring schedule: The Spring 2010 mobile mammogram season wrapped up this week with a June 21-23 visit to Angoon. Before that, the van visited Haines on May 4-18, Kake on May 24-27, Skagway on June 1-4 and Yakutat on June 9-16. The Spring 2010 season featured 230 screening mammograms in the five communities, with 159 going to SEARHC patients. During the Summer/Fall 2010 season the van will visit Hoonah on Aug. 23-27, 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 are not 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 askwh@searhc.org, or go online at http://www.searhc.org/womenshealth/. SEARHC Injury Prevention to host networking lunch and conference July 19-20 in Sitka: The SEARHC Injury Prevention Team will host a 1 1/2- day conference, “Preventing Injuries in Your Community: A Planned Approach,” on July 19-20 at the SEARHC At Kaník Hít Community Health building in Sitka. This conference is open to all Southeast Alaska residents, and will give participants a chance to meet other people working on injury prevention in the region and teach them how to get effective injury prevention messages into their communities. The meeting kicks off with a networking lunch. The conference runs from noon to 5 p.m. on Monday and 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday. The conference fee is $50, and a limited number of travel and registration fee scholarships are available. For more information, contact Lesa Way at 966-8804 or lesa.way@searhc.org or contact Doug Osborne at 966-8734 or doug.osborne@searhc.org. Special well-child exams for teens available on POW this summer: Nancy Cavanaugh, a pediatric nurse practitioner at the SEARHC Mt. Edgecumbe High School Student Health Center in Sitka, will be on Prince of Wales Island on July 27-29 and Aug. 10-12 (tentative) to provide teens with well-child exams, sports physicals, and immunizations. She also visited Prince of Wales on June 1-3 to provide teen exams. Each trip involves Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon appointments at the Alicia Roberts Medical Center in Klawock, with Thursday appointments at the SEARHC Hydaburg Health Center. These special teen well-child exam clinics are covered by the Indian Health Service for all Native patients, by most private insurance plans, and by Denali KidCare or Medicaid for Native and non-Native families that meet income requirements. To schedule appointments, call ARMC at 755-4800 or the Hydaburg Health Center at 285-3462. WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program events planned for Thorne Bay, Kasaan: An annual women’s health screening event will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, July 13 and 15, at the SEARHC Thorne Bay Health Center, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, July 21, at the SEARHC Kasaan Health Center. Look for fliers in your community and announcements in your post office box with more information. The annual women’s health screening includes a clinical breast exam, routine labs, heart health check and maybe a Pap test (depending on your personal health history). For women age 40 or older, this is a great time to get your clinical breast exam done before the mobile mammogram van makes its annual visit on Sept. 22-Oct. 8 to Klawock and on Oct. 11-12 to Craig. The annual women’s screening exam may be free for qualifying women through the WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Grant. Please call Mary Dinon or Helen Jackson at 1-877-755-4800 in Klawock (toll-free number) to see if you qualify or for any questions. Kasaan women can contact Helen for an appointment at their screening event, while Thorne Bay women should contact the Thorne Bay clinic at 828-8848. Regards, Roald