YKHC opens nursing home

elderlounge
Local elders explore a common/living room area at the Yukon Kuskokwim Elder's Home skilled nursing facility in Bethel.

It is finally happening.

YKHC’s new residential skilled nursing and long term care facility, the Yukon Kuskokwim Elder’s Home, hosted an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony Friday afternoon, September 27. The facility is giving people of this region an access point to critical health care and hospice services that were previously only available outside of the region.

Long term care and skilled nursing facilities provide vital care to clinically complex patients who require inpatient care for extended periods. For the YK region, most of these patients would be referred to facilities in Anchorage—to the Alaska Native Medical Center or places like Providence Extended Care. Having the skilled nursing facility in Bethel will make it easier for them to receive care closer to home, in a culturally appropriate context.

“We have championed the need for this facility for quite some time, and it really pleases me that we can come together to show case that it is finally here,” said chairman of the YKHC Board, Ray Alstrom.

The construction of the facility began in August, 2011 and was funded largely through the State of Alaska’s general fund appropriations. The total cost of construction was $16.3 million. The YK Elder’s Home will accommodate up to 18 residents and YKHC administration is working hard to obtain skilled nursing facility licensure so they can bill for services to sustain the financial operations of the new facility, expected to operate at a loss of $2.2 million in the first year.

Although budget reductions as a result of the Balanced Budget Act of 2012 and sequester are forcing cutbacks—including reductions in workforce of nearly 45 employees and the elimination of the Home Care department—YKHC’s Executive Board may the tough decision to follow the people’s priority and make the long-held nursing home dream come true.

“Operational cost is one thing, but bringing this skilled nursing facility closer to home, and in Bethel, is what our tribes and what our customers demanded of us,” said President/CEO Gene Peltola. “In the same breath, we understand that this isn’t the solution for everyone. . . but just a part of it in this sequester environment. When the tribes and our Board Members voiced concerns over where YKHC should be allocating its resources, we hear time and time again that the resource is our elders requiring 24 hour assistance. . . and they deserve the right to be closer to home for their long-term care needs.”

The first 10 residents will be welcomed into the facility starting October 1 and that number will increase to 18 residents by November 1.

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