Curyung Tribe to leave BBAHC

The Curyung Tribal Council building in Dillingham. (Tyler Thompson/KDLG)

The Curyung Tribe is leaving the Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation. 

In a statement, Robert Clark, President and CEO of BBAHC, said the corporation “does not intend to change any of its policies about who is eligible to receive healthcare in its facilities and the scope and nature of care we provide until all withdrawal issues have been addressed.” 

Tribal administrator Courtenay Carty said in an email that the tribe passed a resolution in May to withdraw from BBAHC. 

“The main reason for the withdrawal focuses on patient care issues and the failure of BBAHC to take concerns from our tribal members and Council, seriously,” she said. 

Last fall, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that Kanakanak Hospital pharmacy practices put patients at risk of harm or death. BBAHC manages the hospital, which is listed as a self-governance program on the Indian Health Service website.

At the Curyung Tribe’s annual meeting last November, members passed a resolution authorizing the council to leave the health corporation if their concerns were not addressed.

The hospital was deemed compliant a few months later, in January. But Carty said they had difficulty working with BBAHC, and that their decision to withdraw also came after the health corporation removed the tribe’s representative from the hospital board. 

The Curyung Tribe is the largest of the 28 Alaska Native tribes that currently authorize BBAHC to provide care to their members through a contract with the Indian Health Service. In 1980, it authorized the health corporation to provide healthcare services through the Indian Health Service on behalf of tribal members. It reissued that authorization in 1994.

The tribe is meeting with IHS and BBAHC this week to discuss the transition. The earliest the withdrawal will take effect is May 2020.