Tribal Unity Gathering XIX

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Tribal Council representatives determine health care priorities at Tribal Gathering XIX.

Tribal Council delegates to YKHC’s 19th Tribal Unity Gathering are asking their health corporation leadership to focus on the high cost of patient travel and the high rate of teen suicide as top concerns in the coming year.

YKHC brought more than 70 representatives from regional villages to meet with the corporation’s administrative leaders, board members, employees, providers and community guests in Bethel April 10–13. The annual Gathering serves as a forum for reports on health care services and an opportunity for our customer-owners to set the direction of future improvements.

This year’s Gathering began with an evening of presentations and group discussions on Traditional Native ways of healing. Presenters Dr. Paul John of Toksook Bay, YKHC’s Honorary Board Member; and Dr. Theresa John spoke of Native medicine as healing mind, body and spirit. Board Member and traditional herbalist Gloria Simeon shared the health benefits of various local plants and how to use them in teas, ointments and salves.

The opening evening session was included in response to priority requests for more integration of Native traditional approaches to healing with the clinical care provided by YKHC. The success of the introductory session prompted renewed calls for an extended conference focusing wholly on traditional healing, which was voted high on the listing of priorities.

In opening remarks Wednedsday morning, April 11, YKHC President/CEO Gene Peltola listed projects and improvements over the past 20 years resulting directly from tribal gathering priorities: a new nursing home now under construction, and a new Prematernal Home in the planning stages, five subregional clinics and a host of new village clinics to bring quality health care closer to home, rural medevac services, outpatient service improvements at the hospital to reduce wait times, a CT scanner at the hospital, increased cancer screening, and more.

Peltola said there is currently a request in the state legislature’s capital budget for funding for a new alcohol treatment facility. Over the past 18 years, new clinic construction has topped $250 million, with the bulk of it coming from Denali Commission funding. With that source drying up, “we must become more creative with funding,” Peltola said. But, thanks in part to having our own construction company, we’ve been able to build those clinics at reduced cost, and without having to borrow money, Peltola said.

The next big project, mandated by the federal government, is a transition to electronic health records (EHR) (See following story). The projected “go-live” date is January, 2013.

All of Day One of the Gathering was taken up with health service status reports. Slide presentations of these reports are available here. Topics include cancer screening, prenatal care, sexually transmitted infections, home care, health status, capital projects, Native workforce development and suicide prevention.

A special event Wednesday evening, open to the general public, featured story-teller/playwright  Jack Dalton, who captivated children and adults alike with his interpretation of the classic Yup’ik tale, “The Boy Who Ate Too Much.”

Day Two was devoted to setting, sharing and voting on priorities. The complete listing of each regional district’s top priorities is available here.

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