Alicia Roberts Medical Center wins rural health award

May 04 2010

The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Alicia Roberts Medical Center in Klawock was honored with the Outstanding Rural Health Organization Award during the awards luncheon on Wednesday, April 28, at the Alaska Rural Health Conference in Anchorage. The award honors a group or organization that has improved access to health services and information for rural people through innovative, comprehensive approaches, according to the Alaska Rural Health Conference website. Factors considered include outreach, preventive health and education, quality and efficiency of care, and strong community support and involvement. “It was an honor and privilege to accept this award on behalf of all the staff at Alicia Roberts,” said Donna Miller, RN, MPA, SEARHC Alicia Roberts Medical Center Clinic Administrator. “The staff at the clinic is committed to providing the best care possible to the residents of POW (Prince of Wales Island). With SEARHC and (SEARHC Community Health Care Services Medical Director) Dr. David Vastola’s guidance, the clinic has been able to take advantage of various funding opportunities over the past several years to expand the scope of services provided at the clinic.” Fifteen years ago, the Alicia Roberts Medical Center (ARMC) was staffed by three community health aides who provided health care services to all of SEARHC’s Native patients on Prince of Wales Island. The clinic was tucked into the back of a small building that now houses the Klawock Community Library. Services were very limited, but they expanded as mid-level and physician-level providers were added to the staff. SEARHC partnered with the Klawock Heenya Corp. to build a larger clinic, renovating a former grocery store. In 2000, ARMC suddenly became the only provider of emergency and after-hours care on the island, which brought a large infusion of non-Native patients to the clinic. ARMC then successfully applied to become a Community Health Center through the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which provided improved access to the clinic for all residents of the island, regardless of their ability to pay (through HRSA, ARMC can charge a sliding fee based on a patient’s income). HRSA funds allowed the clinic to expand its offering of medical, dental and behavioral health services. The Denali Commission funded an expansion of the clinic, which was completed in 2005. The clinic also provides a moderate complexity laboratory, telepharmacy services and a variety of wellness programs, including women’s health, diabetes prevention and management, injury prevention and safety, tobacco cessation, nutrition counseling, culture camps to promote traditional Native lifestyles and wellness, and employee wellness. In addition, ARMC has been a lead participant in the Frontier Extended Stay Clinic demonstration project, a new model of care that provides a comfortable and safe place for seriously ill or injured patients who are waiting for a medevac flight that might be delayed by weather or other issues. The FESC project also helps patients avoid a medevac and be treated in their home community by providing the patients with additional monitoring or observation for certain procedures that used to require transport to a larger facility. “I am extremely proud of all the SEARHC staff who have worked so hard over the years to make the ARMC story such a postive one,” said Frank Sutton, SEARHC Chief Operating Officer. “The people who live on Prince of Wales Island have access to very high quality health services as a result of the work of the staff.”