ASHNHA | Alaska State Hospital & Nursing Home Association

October 30, 2014

ASHNHA Connection

Your Link to News from the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association

A Message from our CEO…

This is the inaugural edition of the new ASHNHA monthly newsletter, ASHNHA Connection. We hope that this newsletter helps to connect you with the work hospitals and nursing homes are doing every day across the state. Hospitals are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to anyone who walks through the door. With Ebola cases recently diagnosed in the United States, hospitals are diligently preparing for the potential of a patient presenting at their facilities. While the likelihood of a case of Ebola in Alaska is low, our hospitals are ensuring that they are prepared, whether for this or another public health emergency or natural disaster. Our hospitals and nursing homes are critical to keeping our communities safe and healthy, whether delivering routine care or preparing for the unexpected. 

- Becky Hultberg, President/CEO


ASHNHA Annual Meeting 2014

The 2014 Annual Meeting was held in September at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood. Feedback from the meeting was overwhelmingly positive. Attendees commented that the speakers were engaging and the venue was excellent. One participant said, “I can't remember the last time I went a two-day meeting that ended with a full-house in attendance at the very end. We stayed for a good reason - the whole program was very well done.” 

Topics covered included health system transformation, mental health and addiction treatment, social media and its application in health care, a political panel and updates from Premera and Moda, among others. At right, panelists discuss their experiences coordinating superuser care through their emergency departments. Pictured from left to right are Dr. Stephen Anderson - MultiCare Auburn MC., Dr. Carlton Heine – Bartlett Regional Hospital, Dr. Richard Mandsager –Providence Alaska Medical Center, and Julie Taylor – Alaska Regional Hospital.
The annual banquet and political action committee (PAC) auction is always a highlight of the conference. This year Karen Perdue gave a special presentation on the history of Benny Benson and the Alaska Flag. ASHNHA honored Perdue's retirement was honored with a video of remarks from friends and colleges and presentation of an award for her service. Mountain Pacific Quality Health was there to present quality awards to a number of facilities doing exceptional work.

Medicaid Reform Advisory Group

The Medicaid Reform Advisory Group wrapped up its public work on October 29. The group, formed by Gov. Sean Parnell when he announced that he would not expand Medicaid, has been meeting monthly since April to discuss Medicaid reform. The reform alternatives presented to the group by the Department for its consideration have been primarily cost reductions, including rate freezes, therapy limits, and a global budget for Medicaid, among others. Meetings have been sparsely attended by providers and advocates, until the Oct. 29 meeting. At that meeting, physical therapists mobilized their patients, including parents of children with disabilities, prompting heartfelt testimony that was widely covered in the media. The meeting concluded without all of those who signed up for testimony being able to testify. Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Bill Streur indicated at the conclusion of the meeting that he will be working with members of the group to schedule a future meeting or teleconference to ensure that members of the public who did not get to testify will have the ability to do so.  

ASHNHA offered public testimony at several MRAG meetings. Click here to review the testimony.

Mentors for Quality Program

October 22 marked the final day of the 2014 ASHNHA Mentors for Quality Program. Nine facilities were represented in this year’s cohort, which began May 7 at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. The goal of the program, which pairs new quality & infection control staff with leaders in the field, is to accelerate workforce competency through inter-hospital sharing. The program started with a full day of training on the IHI Model for Improvement and ended with a working poster session at the Patient Safety Conference. Focus on specific quality/infection control projects, data collection and display, weekly mentoring calls, webinar educational offerings and mentor/mentee site visits were key elements of the program.

Back row, L-R: Kathy Katongan, Lieza Johnson, Lindsay Duckworth, Greta Wade, Barb DeBaun, Rod Perdue, Sandi Calvert. Front row, L-R: Kristine Brockman, Lori Graber, Shelley Hjort, Sandi Crawford.

With the support of member hospital and long-term care leadership, the ASHNHA Mentors for Quality Program continues to grow and strengthen. The program expanded this year to include long-term care and infection control. Thank you to the following participating hospitals:

  • Alaska Native Medical Center
  • Bartlett Regional Hospital
  • Fairbanks Memorial Hospital
  • PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center
  • Petersburg Medical Center
  • Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center
  • Sitka Community Hospital
  • Wrangell Medical Center
  • Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation—acute and long-term care
  • Heritage Place

Mountain-Pacific QIO announces quality awards

Mountain-Pacific Quality Health Foundation, the quality improvement organization for Alaska, recognized Alaska hospitals and long-term care facilities for their commitment to improving quality care and quality of life to those they serve. Quality Award winners must meet a number of criteria including strong executive involvement in the promotion of a “quality culture.” This means focusing on patient-centered care and improving national health care measures related to cardiac health and pneumonia, in addition to the reduction of unnecessary hospital readmissions and the prevention of dangerous and costly healthcare-associated infections. All hospitals and long-term care facilities in Alaska are invited to compete for these prestigious awards.

Congratulations to this year’s hospital and long-term care winners!
The 2014 Quality Achievement Award recipients are:

  • Petersburg Medical Center
  • Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center
  • Wrangell Medical Center 
The 2014 Commitment to Quality Award recipients are:
  • Bartlett Regional Hospital
  • PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center
  • Providence Alaska Medical Center
Each long-term care facility showed a dedication to residents and their families by delivering high-quality care. Mountain-Pacific was proud to present these awards and will continue to work with Alaska’s long-term care facilities to help ensure that every resident receives the safest, highest-quality care possible.  

Three long-term care facilities achieved the Recognition of Excellence Quality Award:
  • Denali Center
  • Heritage Place
  • Quyanna Care Center

Hospitals use Ebola threat to strengthen infection control practices

The Ebola outbreak in Western Africa has strengthened infection control practices in Alaska as hospitals prepare for the threat both internally and as partners in the State’s Ebola response plan. Ensuring that Ebola and other similar diseases are controlled is a high priority. Policies and procedures are being updated according to new CDC guidelines, personal protective equipment supplies are being evaluated and enhanced, and healthcare workers are conducting mock drills and collaborative grand rounds throughout the state.

ASHNHA members have demonstrated a strong willingness to partner with the Department of Health and Social Services by assisting them in updating personnel contact lists, distributing and responding to surveys, and participating in statewide calls. ASHNHA is representing members as an active participant in the State of Alaska Ebola Task Force. ASHNHA’s website is updated with useful links to a variety of Ebola-related resources and member hospitals will continue to receive relevant and timely information to support preparedness efforts.

On October 21, ASHNHA hosted a call for members to share and learn from each other. Providence Alaska Medical Center, Alaska Regional Hospital and South Peninsula Hospital generously shared their preparedness experiences, lessons learned and future plans related to Ebola preparedness. DHSS Sections of Epidemiology and Preparedness were present to field questions and serve as additional resources.

Ebola highlights infection control as a team effort that requires knowledge, training and continuous practice to be effective. Hospitals play a critical role in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases and take seriously the obligation to care for patients, staff members and communities.  

Leadership Transitions

Jeff Comer – Sitka Community Hospital
Jeff Comer has been named CEO of Sitka Community Hospital.  Comer previously served as chief executive officer of Arizona General Hospitals and The Surgical Hospital of Phoenix in Phoenix, AZ, providing leadership and strategic direction for multiple hospitals, free standing emergency rooms and surgical hospital management companies. Comer also held the role of senior vice president of operations at Nueterra Healthcare in Kansas City, Kan., where he was responsible for over 30 hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers. He also served as chief executive officer for two Tenet Health Hospitals, Tenet Whittier Hospital Medical Center in Whittier, Calif., and Tenet Lake Mead Medical Center in Las Vegas, Nev.
Comer earned a Master of Health Care Administration from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. and a Bachelor of Psychology from Arizona State University in Phoenix, Ariz. He and his wife Mariah, a personal fitness trainer and non-profit manager, are excited to become very active members of the Sitka community.
Steven Sundby - Cordova Community Medical Center
Stephen Sundby, Ph.D., is the new administrator for Cordova Community Medical Center. Sundby has provided effective and dependable leadership while serving as CCMC interim administrator from January 2011 to April 2012 and again from July 2014 to the present.  During those times he has overseen operations for the medical center, primary care clinic, long-term care and behavioral health.
Sundby holds a doctor of philosophy degree in psychology from Western Michigan University and holds multiple professional licenses and certifications.  Notably, he is a licensed nursing home administrator and professional counselor.  Sundby has an innate love for the community of Cordova, its pristine outdoor setting and recreational offerings. During his spare time he enjoys fishing, hunting, hiking and “just being on the water.”  

Health Insurance Marketplace 2015 – open enrollment period begins soon

The open enrollment period for the 2015 plan year will begin on November 15, 2014 and continue through February 15, 2015.
If a consumer selects a plan by December 15, 2014, the coverage will go into effect on January 1, 2015. Consumers who already have coverage must go back to the Marketplace to get an updated eligibility determination and review new options and costs.
During the first open enrollment period, 12,890 Alaskans enrolled in health insurance and 88% received premium subsidies. The Marketplace is the only way for consumers to access subsidies. It is critical for all community stakeholders, including hospitals, to continue to reach out to consumers and make the enrollment process easy, accessible and widely available.

Alaska has a new web site to help consumers - Get Covered Alaska! This website is for Alaskan's to learn more about the Affordable Care Act and coverage options available.  Enroll Alaska can also provide consumers with individual assistance on enrollment. Visit the Health Insurance Marketplace website.


Cohort #5 for Perioperative Nurses

Under the leadership of DeAnn Wittrock, nurse educator at Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC), the Alaska Subspecialty Nursing consortium recently had 11 nurse interns complete the perioperative course. To date the consortium has trained 50 perioperative nurses. Pictured here are the nurse interns and the two instructors from Alaska Regional hospital.
The interns had their second week of classes at Alaska Regional Hospital, while the first week was held primarily at Providence Alaska Medical Center. Sessions are planned at ANMC in November.

ASHNHA is working with consortium members and other key stakeholders to develop a proposal to address nurse training for behavioral health and emergency medicine.

This work could not be accomplished without the support and dedication of ASHNHA members.

Upcoming Events and Educational Opportunities

  • ASHNHA Quality Webinar 
    "Death by Opiates" examines the problem & solutions to the opioid overdose epidemic in America.

    Steve Anderson, MD  Emergency Physician at MultiCare Auburn Medical Center November 4, 1 -2 p.m.  No registration required
    Webinar link:
  • ASHNHA Telehealth Webinar
    Legal Considerations for Telemedicine in Alaska
    Anthony Miles, Partner, Stoel Rives LLP 
    November 6, 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.  No registration required.
    Webinar link:  
  • ASHNHA Quality Webinar
    Bringing the Social Media Revolution to Health Care in The Last Frontier
    Lee Aase, Director of Social Media at Mayo Clinic
    November 18, 1 - 2 p.m.  No registration required.
    Webinar link: 
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