YKHC lands huge loan for new hospital

YKHC consists of a regional hospital in Bethel. Photo Courtesy of YKHC.
YKHC consists of a regional hospital in Bethel. Photo Courtesy of YKHC.

The Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation has secured the majority of the funds needed to expand its facilities in an effort to improve health care throughout the YK Delta.

At $165 million, YKHC received the largest loan commitment ever granted by the United States Department of Agriculture Community Facilities Program on Thursday. The program funds facilities that serve an “essential” community purpose, according to the program’s website.

YKHC’s hospital was built in the 1980s, and the corporation is planning to renovate the building and construct a new primary care facility. The USDA loan will kick in once construction is complete.

Jim Nordlund is the Alaska USDA Rural Development Director and said YKHC partly received the loan because of its antiquated state.

“YKHC’s hospital is old fashioned, doesn’t really meet the modern health care standards, rooms are too small, different areas of care are spread across the facility.” Nordlund continued, “There are some areas of care that are not even provided inside the facilities.”

Nordlund said this jumbled arrangement makes receiving and giving care inconvenient for patients and health workers.

Michael Faubian, YKHC Interim Public Relations Director, said the new facilities will consolidate services and usher in a new model of care.

“What we want to do is implement a patient-centered care,” Faubian explained.

What that means is bringing health services to the patient rather than sending the patient to different areas of the hospital to seek care. So tests, x-rays, pharmacy, et cetera will all be brought to the exam room.

“It creates a more efficient and a better experience for the patient,” said Faubian.

Care will also change in the villages.

When YKHC finishes the facilities Indian Health Services will pay to staff about 200 new employees, including heath care providers and support staff. The workers will operate in teams assigned to various villages. When patients from a village come to the hospital, they will be seen by their designated team, and team will travel to their allotted villages.

“The idea,”Faubian explained, “is the patients will have the same set of providers when they go to get services.”

YKHC is the primary health care provider for the 58 communities throughout the YK Delta.

The loan commitment comes a week after President Barack Obama signed a bill transferring 23 acres of federal land to YKHC where the corporation plans to build its new facility.

The USDA loan covers about 70 percent of the YKHC funding goals. The corporation is working to secure the remaining capital from the Alaska Municipal Bond Bank Authority and the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.