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SEARHC Incident Commander Announces COVID-19 Surge Plans

SITKA – On Wednesday, SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, COVID-19 Incident Commander Dr. Elliot Bruhl shared organizational surge plans and the latest responses to the pandemic.  Mt. Edgecumbe High School (MEHS) in Sitka has been tabbed as a SEARHC alternative care site, should patient and facility capacity be outpaced by the need for hospital beds and isolation.

SEARHC’s Incident Command System (ICS) has requested usage of the three separate MEHS dormitories.  Each would serve a dedicated use – hospital overflow, mild COVID-19 cases, and persons under investigation (PUI).  It is also possible that the gymnasium facilities would be used for additional capacity if required.  The utilization of MEHS would allow patients from Southeast communities, particularly smaller communities without resources, to be sent to Sitka for ongoing care by SEARHC staff associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our mission is to partner in providing the best healthcare for our communities,” said Bruhl.  “In this time of need, these partnerships are as important as ever.  In working with the Sitka Unified Command and MEHS Superintendent Vanasse, SEARHC has developed a surge plan which will allow us to provide the highest-level of care possible for all patients in our network.”

SEARHC decided upon MEHS for numerous reasons, including location.  As MEHS is adjacent to Mt. Edgecumbe Medical Center (MEMC), proximity would facilitate the effective movement of staff, supplies, and patients.  It’s also currently vacant, as Governor Dunleavy mandated on March 16 that all state boarding schools close.  With more than 400 resident beds between multiple buildings, the MEHS dormitories have the capacity for staged rapid responsiveness.

The use of MEHS resources would also include incidental services to the dormitory, including kitchen services and staff, facility maintenance services, and environmental services, including janitorial and laundry. The request also includes necessary supplies and services associated with the service contracts.  The use of the facility would be indefinite, dependent on the duration of the pandemic and the start of the 2020-21 school year.

For more information on the coronavirus, visit covid19.searhc.org or call the SEARHC COVID-19 Hotline at 907.966.8799.