The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation opened its outpatient clinic at the new hospital yesterday. The organization will be moving into the new state-of-the-art facility in phases throughout the year. Inpatient services will move over in two to three weeks, with dental and behavioral health following in November.
YKHC Vice President of Hospital Services Jim Sweeney says that one of the reasons they needed a new hospital was so they could add more staff.
“Dental is pretty much going to double in size,” Sweeney said. “We’re increasing the medical staff, and the support staff to go along with that."
With enough staff at the hospital, Sweeney says that dentists and medical staff will be able to deliver health care beyond Bethel more often.
“Our goal is really to bring the patient services as close to home as possible,” Sweeney said. “So we want to serve people here in Bethel, but we also want to go out to the villages.”
The new hospital will also feature a behavioral health decision unit where patients with critical mental health issues can be treated rather than being flown to Anchorage. YKHC Public Relations Director Mitchell Forbes says that there’s a reason they’re trying to limit travel for patients.
“You’re leaving your home, leaving your family, leaving your support system,” Forbes said. “So for us being able to provide services in-region is about improving the quality of our patient care and patient experience.”
The improvements aren’t done yet. YKHC plans to renovate the old hospital and connect the two buildings. They’ll also demolish the North Wing of the old hospital and build a large gathering space for patients to spend time with their support systems. That space is where YKHC is planning to host the grand opening for the public, anticipated to take place early next year.