YKHC’s skilled nursing and long term care facility, the Yukon Kuskokwim Elders Home, received a visit from the State of Alaska’s surveyor on April 10, 2014 and passed all remaining requirements.
The full report and request for certification will be sent to the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) to allow full operation of this new and much needed service. The statewide facility, which opened in early October of 2013 provides 24 hour skilled nursing, critical health care and hospice services 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, such as the Alaska Native Medical Center or Providence Extended Care. A long-standing request by YKHC Board of Directors and the region’s 58 federally recognized tribes, the Bethel facility will make it easier for our region’s patients to receive care closer to home, in a culturally appropriate context, and allow them to not feel the isolation or sense of abandonment that many patients have experienced historically when leaving their village.
“In years past, I’ve spoken to patients from the YK Delta staying at urban facilities. They were unhappy they could not visit their family, eat traditional foods, participate in dance and song, and speak Yugtun. The opening of our Elders Home forever changes that for our residents,” said President/CEO Dan Winkelman.
The construction of the facility began in August of 2011 and was funded in large part due to the hard work of Sen. Lyman Hoffman, Rep. Bob Herron, Commissioner Bill Streur and Gov. Sean Parnell. The YKHC Board of Directors had to make some tough decisions understanding they will operate at a loss of at least $1.1 Million in the first year. The new facility can accommodate up to 18 residents, and YKHC obtaining the CMS certification will allow YKHC to bill for services and make the investment in this home financially sustainable into the future.
Certification by CMS comes on the coattails of the recent YKHC annual Tribal Unity Gathering when nearly 60 tribal delegates attended a two-day conference in Bethel where a presentation and tour of the facility took place.
YK Elders Home administrator Gerald Hodges said, “We are elated that our hard work and efforts are now going to pay off and that the collaboration across several of YKHC divisions–it was a team effort by many to make this happen.” Currently there are six residents and the admission review panel will begin the admissions process in upcoming weeks now that certification has been obtained.
“It is our priority to ensure that not only are we providing excellent patient care in this beautiful facility, but to also make it financially viable to sustain operations in the future. Certification by CMS is a great achievement and I applaud the team effort between our staff at YKHC and the State of Alaska in making this a reality,” said Dan Winkelman.