Thanks to those who attended tonight's Feasibility Update at the Nolan Center. We weren't quite as packed as the Community Meeting back on April 9th, but that was expected. Sorry, but we couldn't get SEARHC to pony up more AK Air miles for a door prize.
What we were treated to was an update on the new hospital project, as well as some conceptual designs and potential floorplan configurations for the theoretical SEARHC healthcare campus. While I'd love to drop them all on you now, you'll have to wait until Wednesday as SEARHC and Wold representatives still have one more presentation on tap, which takes place tomorrow night in front of the Borough Assembly. Then, come Wednesday morning, I'll have some juicy conceptual info to share here on the blog.
I do want to reinforce that last sentence by saying again, the designs being presented are, in fact, concepts. Nothing is concrete, nothing is close to finalized. Everything is very much fluid and in the "can this be done?" phase. The main positive to take away at this time is that they came back, not only Wold, but SEARHC. It's still moving forward. And while SEARHC didn't offer up another envelope full of milage, perhaps they're one step closer to delivering a hospital.
Also, WMC is now on Instagram. If you're looking to for another outlet for happenings at WCA, or updates on the new hospital, follow us at instagram.com/wrgmedctr. Our social media widgets can always be found in the footer of all wrangellmedicalcenter.org pages.
Just six weeks removed from the initial Community Meeting, Wold A&E and SEARHC will be back at the Nolan Center for Round 2.
The Steering Committee has just released a schedule for the Feasibility Update of the Wrangell Community Healthcare Solution. Meetings begin in Wrangell Sunday, May 20th, with a presentation to the Stakeholder Committee, and commence on Tuesday, May 22nd, with a presentation to the Borough Assembly. The three-day schedule is highlighted by a 6:30 p.m. Community Meeting on Monday, May 21st, which will find the architects again presenting in the Nolan Center to hopefully another packed house.
While you shouldn't need more reason to attend the Community Meeting, especially if you were present for the April 9th event, know that Wold A&E is coming armed with a concept of a potential WMC/AICS Clinic shared-campus. That's right, the architects will present initial designs to the Stakeholder and Steering Committees, WMC and AICS staff, the Assembly, and the community. So please, if you want to lay your eyes on the rough draft SEARHC and Wold are putting forward, show up on the evening of Monday, May 21st, and bring your family and friends.
Now is the time in the post where I tell you to hold off con celebrating quite yet. This is just a feasibility update. They are just presenting a concept design. There are quite a few more hurdles between us and the finish line. But this is a step in the right direction. This means Wold was able to take the feedback from their April visit and create a campus design that addresses WMC staff and patient needs. More importantly, it means SEARHC took a look at those plans, and probably a ballpark price for construction, and they weren't scared off. Not only were they not scared off, but just a month removed from the last visit, they have scheduled work session #2 to keep the ball rolling.
So mark your calendar, set a reminder on your phone, pitch a tent in the Nolan Center lawn for all I care. Just know that once muddied future of healthcare in Wrangell will get a little clearer the evening of May 21st, and we'd love for you to be a part of this important update and discussion.
One last time, tell your family, friends and neighbors the following:
Wrangell Community Healthcare Solution
Feasibility Update Community Meeting
6:30 p.m. Monday, May 21st
So as you all may know, Alaska is broke. Perhaps I could put that more lightly and say the state is having some budget issues. Unfortunately, health care hasn't escaped the pinch of the state's lightened bank account unscathed. Namely, Medicaid seems to have found itself on the back burner of the budget.
If you're not familiar with Medicaid, no need to be embarrassed. In fact, take a moment to educate yourself on the largest source of health care coverage in America. The following is the CliffsNotes definition of Medicaid from the State Department of Public Assistance website;
Medicaid, an entitlement program created by the federal government, is the primary public program for financing basic health and long-term care services for low-income Alaskans. It is funded by federal and state general funds. The program focuses on coverage for low-income children, pregnant women, families, adults without dependent children between the ages of 19 and 64, the elderly, blind and the permanently disabled.
Today, more than 200,000 Alaskans are covered by Medicaid, up more than 60 percent from the 2015 figure. A large part of that was Gov. Walker widening the low-income eligibility requirements in 2015 after the introduction of the Affordable Care Act. That action, paired with Alaska having the highest unemployment rates in the country at nearly twice the national average, does not a winning formula make.
Early in 2018, the Governor's Administration was seeking about $93 Million to cover Medicaid until July 1st, the start of the new fiscal year. They were given $45 Million in March via fast track supplemental funding, with the additional to come in the capitol budget. That $45 Million has been exhausted, and the remaining $48 Million is not in the budget, which means there will be stoppage in payments to hospitals.
And it's not like this is a situation where you can float the boat with cash from elsewhere. Like most small hospitals, nearly half of WMC's revenue comes from Medicaid. And even when WMC is being reimbursed, it's coming in at less than it costs to provide the service. Imagine trying to run a business where half of your customers are paying you less than you paid for the product. Now imagine that same half of your customer base no longer having the money to shop at all. Small hospitals defy the logic of a typical business plan.
Critical access hospitals like WMC are in some risky waters. It's no secret that shrinking reimbursements and operational costs, including upkeep on an aging facility, have continually had WMC in the less-than-30-days-cash-on-hand zone. Take away Medicaid and there's no more cash on hand. Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association (ASHNHA) President Becky Hultberg outlined the situation in her March 2nd letter to the State Senate, which can be read below (click the letter for a printable version).
Keep tabs on the state budget and the Medicaid situation, as quite a bit of news could unfold in the coming days/weeks. Google News has been full of articles as of late. Catch the ear of a representative, if you get the opportunity. For some great info and figures on the state budget, check this presentation from the ASHNHA OMB. It's understandable that cuts must be made given the state financial situation, but it's scary to think that those cuts could include the health and wellness of Alaskans.
If there's still any confusion as to what location they have ear-marked for the new hospital, I'm here to clear that up for you. For those who were hoping to be surprised by the placement of the new facility (spoiler alert), they're looking at a joint campus with the AICS Clinic.
Thanks to Carol at City Hall, I am able to update this post with a current aerial photo, sparing new readers of the previous MS Paint eyesore. The image above clearly outlines the WMC designated parcels surrounding the AICS Clinic. The parcel outlined in blue, located west/northwest of the clinic, is where the theoretical hospital will be planted.
Previous plans had some sort of walkway/breezeway joining a detached hospital to the Clinic for ease of access. Now that SEARHC is involved, plans for a walkway are scrapped. They're going to slap the new hospital on the Zimovia-facing side of the Clinic and put everything under one roof.
The reasons to pursue a joint campus are obvious. Medical staff and patients will no longer have to commute between the hospital and clinic. This is important, seeing how the entities share physicians, and patients should receive care without having to hop back in their car or take an impractical ambulance ride. The land is city-owned, and provides enough area for not only the required construction for a new critical access hospital, but potential future expansion as well.
The main reason, of course, is that it'll cut the costs down.
Underutilized space in the Clinic, namely a large upstairs area, can be used by WMC, perhaps for Admin offices. Waiting and meeting areas, break rooms and procedure rooms, they could be shared. There's just no reason to duplicate these locations if they're only used half of the time, or never nearing max capacity. This eliminates the need for hundreds-to-thousands of square feet in new construction.
It all comes down to dollars. The more the architects can whittle that price tag down through shared space, the more likely SEARHC brings out the check book and builds the nicest small hospital in Alaska right in our back yard.
And wouldn't it be nice to have all the care you need under one roof?
Wold Architects and Engineers is a full-service design firm focused on sustainable architecture and engineering for education, government, healthcare, and senior living facilities. Since 1968, Wold is committed to delivering exceptional, long-term service to clients and their communities. Our national office is headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota, with other offices based in Denver, Colorado; Palatine, Illinois; and Dubuque, Iowa (in conjunction with Straka Johnson Architects). Our company ranks No. 38 nationally by the 2017 Building Design + Construction Giants 300 Report.
For half of a century, Wold has been designing and completing major projects across the US. During the April 9th community meeting presentation, Wold stated that their resume includes more than 500 healthcare projects in 18 states. Perhaps even more impressive is that of the more than 1,300 critical access hospitals currently in operation nationwide, Wold has worked on more than 5% of them. This isn't their first rodeo.
For those interested, I would recommend taking a stroll through Wold's completed projects, especially their "Wellness" projects page. It gives you a little taste of what their hospital and clinic projects look like upon completion, perhaps providing a glimpse into what they might envision for WMC. If you want to check out the results from the community meeting, click to read this article and the PDFs can be downloaded at the bottom of the page.