Topics On Talk Of Alaska: Public Heath Nurse Shortage In Bethel, Dunleavy Vetoes

Credit Greg Kim / KYUK

Getting access to health care in rural Alaska is tough. It relies a lot on logistics, like air travel, and even public safety can have an impact. Gov. Mike Dunleavy's line-item budget vetoes jeopardize a lot of programs that health care providers, like the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, need. 

"If the runways aren’t maintained the airplanes can’t land, and our patients can’t get to us to get health care, and our providers can’t get to them to provide health care," said Dr. Ellen Hodges, chief of staff at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation. 

Hodges says that public safety is another concern. Many rural Alaska communities don’t have any law enforcement, which can make it unsafe for health aides to be staffed in villages.

Meanwhile, Bethel doesn’t have enough public health nurses. Tim Struna is the chief of Public Health Nursing at the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

"So we’ve had to kind of reshuffle things so we can make sure the highest needs are addressed," Struna said. 

The Department of Health and Social Services could lose $91 million should the vetoes stand. Struna and Hodges spoke on the statewide call-in show, Talk of Alaska.