PUBLISHED: 4:50 PM on Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Deputy secretary presents grant to FESC
U.S. Health and Human Services

Courtesy photo
  U.S. Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Alex Azar presents a $1.5 million grant to SEARHC President/CEO Ken Brewer.
U.S. Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Alex Azar was in Sitka on Friday, Aug. 11, in part to present a $1.5 million grant to the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium for a project to improve health care for people living in remote parts of Alaska and Washington.

The grant is to examine the effectiveness and appropriateness of the Frontier Extended Stay Clinic program, a project led by SEARHC with several sites in rural Alaska and Washington. The FESC program is designed to allow patients in remote areas to stay closer to home for monitoring and observation services, and it gives remote clinics a place to care for patients who might be waiting for a medevac during adverse weather.

During the ceremony and press conference at SEARHC Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital, SEARHC President/CEO Ken Brewer, SEARHC Board Chair Jan Hill and SEARHC VP of Community Health Services Mark Gorman also spoke. Deputy Secretary Azar was joined by Director of Indian Health Services Dr. Charles Grim and several other state and federal public health officials as part of a week-long Alaska tour.

"The Frontier Extended Stay Clinic has resulted in higher-quality care being delivered closer to home," Brewer said. "In addition to the significant quality of care and patient satisfaction benefit, we have saved a considerable amount of money in avoided medevacs and inpatient stays at our regional hospitals."

SEARHC has an established FESC site at the Alicia Roberts Medical Center in Klawock and is expanding FESC services to the Haines Health Center. There also are FESC sites at Iliuliuk Family and Health Services Inc. in Unalaska, at Cross Road Medical Center in Glennallen and at Inter Island Medical Center in Friday Harbor, Wash. The Native Village of Eyak in Cordova is participating as an observer site. The Alaska Center for Rural Health, at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and the University of North Carolina will provide evaluation services.

"This project benefits patients throughout Alaska, where bad weather, darkness and long distances from hospitals have always been a challenge," said Patricia Atkinson, SEARHC's FESC Program Manager.

Sonia Handforth-Kome, the Executive Director of Iliuliuk Family and Health Services Inc. in Unalaska, said stabilizing patients as they await medevacs and treatment that involves extensive monitoring is expensive and not well reimbursed.

"We are the only comprehensive medical providers within 800 air miles, which forced us to divert resources from our regular clinic patients to pay for these incredibly necessary services," Handforth-Kome said. "With these HRSA funds, not only are we able to provide these extended-stay services but we're able to provide more services to our daytime patients, such as enhanced prevention services, to our regular clinic patients."

More information on the FESC project is available on the Web at