Traveling to Anchorage for medical care often means needing a place to stay overnight. For expectant mothers or cancer patients, it can mean staying weeks or months. The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta’s high population relative to other rural areas means more people from our region use patient housing at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium than any rural region. That housing is getting a new facility.
To fundraise for the project, a Navajo comedy duo called James and Ernie toured rural Alaska hubs. On Tuesday, they landed in Bethel.
“I call the Navajos the Starbucks of Native America," Ernie joked during the stand-up show. "Just like Starbucks there’s one on every corner wherever you go."
Kristel Komakhuk with ANTHC says the Bethel performance raised more money than any of the other visits along the tour.
And that’s good she says, because the current housing for ANTHC patients and families is overflowing.
“Right now we're utilizing two hotels and the Quyana House and that’s still not enough,” she said.
The Quyana House is the current too-small patient housing facility. Komakhuk says with summer coming and hotel rooms filling with tourists, the squeeze is getting tighter. Already the consortium is sometimes housing people in hotels in Palmer, because even Eagle River doesn’t have the capacity.
“So that becomes a bit cumbersome as far as logistically transferring elders and those who are already fragile, receiving medical care, cancer patients, what have you,” Komakhuk said.
The new facility is in construction. It has 202 rooms, sits on campus, and will connect to the hospital via skybridge. The building will be six stories high with a library and communal kitchen on each floor and a playground outside.
“It will also have a freezer," Komakhuk said, "for anyone who wants to store subsistence foods or groceries that they may be picking up in Anchorage to bring back home.”
The new facility is set to open January 2017.