Focusing on the Health and Future of Southern SE Alaska


​Over the years, the federal government has enacted policies that have radically affected the delivery of health care in our country as well as the communities of Southeast Alaska. In 1946, the U.S. Congress passed the Hill-Burton Act providing federal grants and loans to improve the nation’s hospital facilities and system. In 1966, Medicare was launched, providing health insurance for the elderly and needy.

“In Ketchikan, the quality of health care benefitted from both of these policies,” explained CEO Patrick Branco. “The Hill-Burton Act provided funding for our original building, and to this day, Medicare insures care for elderly and needy in our community.”

The most recent federal policy changes included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are sure to significantly alter the delivery of patient care throughout the country in the future. “No one is certain what the ACA will bring, but there will be as many unintended as intended consequences,” stated Branco. “What I do know is that we will need to find ways to meet our patients’ needs for less money and with greater efficiencies.”

“PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center is doing just that; preparing for the impending changes,” said Branco. “We are making the most of new technology as well as taking full advantage of economies of scale and skill. We’re employing Care Coordinators who work with people with chronic conditions to ensure the best outcome and reduce costs. And for some time now, we’ve been focusing our short- and long-range initiatives on strategies that will most cost-effectively meet the communities’ needs in the future.”

As Ketchikan Medical Center looks at ways to work smarter and to gain efficiencies, one thing Ketchikan’s City and Borough leaders agree upon is the need to update and improve the current Medical Center facilities. Built in 1965, the current City-owned hospital facility was designed for in-patient, surgery and emergency services. Later building additions made room for transitional and long-term care, out-patient treatments and parking. In recent years, a nearby medical clinic merged with the Medical Center offering space for primary and specialty care clinics.

“Twenty-first century health care needs a twenty-first century facility. The Your Health—Your Future addition and alterations project is no longer just a good plan for the future. This is a must do,” stressed General Surgeon Dr. William Sims.

In fact, the project is proceeding with input and support from City and Borough leaders, hospital representatives and community members. The five-year, $76 million project, includes a 72,000 square foot addition on the west side of the current building.
The addition will house a new surgery department with state-of-the-art operating suites, thus solving the present surgical space and infrastructure issues. It will also include 30,000 square feet of clinical space and additional covered parking. The renovation of the vacated spaces will include a functional and secure Emergency Department and make room for various off-site administrative functions to relocate to the Medical Center.

“The population of Alaskans 65 and older is projected to grow by 89 percent in the next 10 years. This demand necessitates additional clinical space as we begin operating in the new ‘medical home’ model encouraged by the ACA,” KMC Foundation Director Penny Pedersen explains. “As demand increases, we have got to have additional primary and special care space as well as adequate space for our team of caregivers.”

At this time, the City who owns the building is prepared to invest $38 million in local funding for the project and PeaceHealth has allocated $8 million to provide the furnishing and fixtures for the new space. Efforts are currently underway to secure the remaining funds needed to move forward with the project.

“We continue to work throughout the state to make this project a reality because we know just how crucial it is to our ability to provide southern Southeast Alaska with excellent health care in the future,” said Branco. “Our communities’ ability to attract and retain industries depends upon the availability of quality health care services.”