2013 began with a huge change in healthcare delivery with the implementation of RAVEN, the Electronic Health Record. RAVEN, an acronym for Records And Verification Electronic Network, went live on Jan. 28 after two years of preparation and $12 million invested. Although not entirely without hitches, the preparation paid off in one of the smoothest transitions partner company Cerner said they had ever experienced.
As the new system became part of the routine, other projects were underway. Construction began on a new Prematernal Home to replace the decrepit 30-year-old facility where pregnant village women stay while awaiting birth in Bethel. The new building will open in 2014.
By August, 2013, the new and long-awaited YK Elders Home was completed and opened. Since the 1990s, YKHC’s Board and Tribal partners have been calling for a regional nursing home to keep elders closer to home. Although the costs will exceed expected revenue, the Board determined the program was important enough to warrant tapping reserve funds.
Funding, always a challenge for an entity reliant on grants and government, took a big hit when the Budget Act of 2013 and its Sequester cut Indian Health Service and other federal funding across-the-board. YKHC leadership suspended non-essential travel, froze hiring and eliminated the summer youth jobs program. Later in the year it became apparent this was not enough and a number of positions had to be cut, along with the Home Care Program, which had proved unsustainable.
Construction of a new village clinic for Napakiak was completed and the community is celebrating its opening this month. This is the 37th new clinic built in the last two decades. Although federal and state funding for new clinics is also getting scarce, the community of Chevak is well on the way to lining up the necessary money for its own new clinic.
YKHC’s 20th Tribal Unity Gathering focused on the previous year’s top priorities: suicide prevention and substance abuse treatment. A full third day was added to the agenda to highlight Behavioral Health programs and services. When it came time to determine priorities for the coming year, delegates shifted their focus back to the hospital: wait time at the ER, service improvements and increased cancer screenings.
We look forward to continuing the pursuit of excellence in health care in 2014 as we also recognize a major transition in leadership with the retirement of President/CEO Gene Peltola in April. In his 24 years at the helm Gene charted a course for the corporation that will endure for decades to come.