PUBLISHED: 10:26 AM on Tuesday, September 5, 2006
Klawock, Haines earns AAAHC accreditation
Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium
The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium Community Health Services has earned a three-year accreditation for two of its clinics from the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, Inc. Accreditation Committee.

The AAAHC accreditation is for the Alicia Roberts Medical Center in Klawock and for the Haines Health Center.

In May, an AAAHC survey team visited the two clinics to see how they met a set of several hundred standards used to rate similar facilities across the nation.

The two SEARHC clinics were found to be substantially compliant in all of the main AAAHC standards categories that applied to the two facilities. Substantially compliant is the highest score possible.

This was SEARHC's first attempt at earning AAAHC accreditation for any of its rural clinics, and the three-year accreditation is the highest level awarded by AAAHC.

SEARHC's larger Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka and its Juneau Medical Center already are accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, while SEARHC's

four substance abuse treatment programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.

"Achieving AAAHC accreditation is a very significant milestone," said Mark Gorman, SEARHC Vice President of Community Health Services.

"It speaks to our commitment to the delivery of the highest quality of health care services to the people we serve. It puts us in the league with nationally recognized urban clinics."

"It's a tremendous achievement," added Dr. David Vastola, M.D., SEARHC Medical Director for Community Health Services. "It's an objective measure of the high quality of care we're providing to the rural community."

More than 2,300 ambulatory health care organizations across the United States have earned AAAHC accreditation. The accreditation process is not required by law, and there are several facilities that fail to earn one of the three levels of accreditation offered by AAAHC.

The types of organizations that pursue AAAHC accreditation include ambulatory and office-based surgery centers, single and multi-specialty group practices, college health centers, dental group practices, community health centers, occupational health centers, military health centers and managed care organizations. SEARHC has three of the nine sites AAAHC has accredited in Alaska.

"For me, AAAHC accreditation offers tangible proof that the Alicia Roberts Medical Center can meet and beat national quality standards; that our clinic provides the same quality and standard of care that is offered by ambulatory care clinics anywhere in the United States. In fact, we offer a higher level of care than many primary care clinics with our Frontier Extended Stay Clinic services, our radiology services and our laboratory services," said Cindy Gamble, Clinic Administrator for Alicia Roberts Medical Center, who said she remembers 11 years ago when SEARHC only provided Community Health Aide-level care to Prince of Wales Island. "We work in a very challenging environment, and due to the hard work and commitment of the ARMC staff and fabulous support of other SEARHC staff, we are able to meet our mission of providing high quality health care services in partnership with Native people."

"We were pleased to learn we received a three-year accreditation - the highest level," said Marcia Scott, Clinic Administrator for the Haines Health Center. "This accreditation demonstrates we meet high quality national standards in the health care we provide to patients. I think it also demonstrates SEARHC's commitment to quality organization-wide. An important aspect of AAAHC accreditation is continuous quality improvement. We worked hard to achieve this and learned a lot along the way. We will continue to monitor the care we provide, identify where we can do better and continue to make improvements."

According to Melody Price-Yonts, SEARHC Quality Assurance/Quality Improvement Coordinator for Community Health Services, the AAAHC reviewers were impressed by the Frontier Extended Stay Clinic services offered in Klawock as part of a national pilot project designed to help remote clinics provide observation services and a place to hold patients when bad weather delays a medevac (this program will expand to Haines starting this fall).

She also said AAAHC liked SEARHC's wellness programs and the WISEWOMAN heart health program for women. She said SEARHC's plan is to bring all of its rural clinics to AAAHC compliance.

"The mission of SEARHC is providing the highest quality health services in partnership with Native people, and this accreditation is a testament that SEARHC employees are dedicated to that mission," Price-Yonts said.

"The AAAHC accreditation is like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval in health care."

For more information, contact Mark Gorman at SEARHC Community Health Services in Sitka at 966-8751, Melody Price-Yonts at SEARHC CHS in Sitka at 966-8803, Marcia Scott at the Haines Health Center at 766-6300 or Cindy Gamble at the Alicia Roberts Medical Center in Klawock at 755-4800. The SEARHC Web site is The AAAHC Web site is