As COVID-19 Stresses The System, YKHC Outlines Alternatives To Health Care Travel

Nov 24, 2020

As YKHC resources hit limits with COVID-19, doctors encourage Y-K residents to seek health care alternatives.
Credit Rashah McChesney / KTOO

With COVID-19 cases crowding into hospitals, people are being asked to delay other medical procedures if possible. Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation Chief of Staff Dr. Ellen Hodges advised people to take advantage of telemedicine connections to Anchorage in order to potentially avoid traveling for medical care.

“Encouraging our patients to keep as many telehealth visits as they possibly can. And we do appreciate the cooperation from Dr. Onders and the specialists at ANMC to really pivot to doing visits by phone or by video for the people in our outlying areas who have trouble traveling. But ultimately consulting with the community health aide and with the providers here in Bethel, we can help make that decision about what’s worthwhile to travel,” said Hodges.

Despite the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the region, Hodges said that at this point, there are enough supplies at both the Bethel hospital and local village clinics for treating patients.

“We have been getting enough of the medications that we use to treat hospitalized inpatients for COVID," said Hodges. "Primarily our dexamethasone, which is a steroid that is useful in the treatment of hospitalized COVID patients, and remdesdivir, which is an IV medication. As far as the villages and oxygen supplies, we work with each village on a daily and weekly basis to make sure they have enough oxygen cylinders.”

Hodges said that that each village has a machine to concentrate oxygen that handles the needs of most patients. Oxygen tanks are flown out for those who need more oxygen than the machines can provide.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region has some of the highest COVID-19 case rates in the country.