PUBLISHED: 4:11 PM on Wednesday, October 3, 2007
SEARHC expands service at Mt. Edgecumbe school
The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) has expanded services provided this year at the Mt. Edgecumbe High School Student Health Center.

This is the first full school year that SEARHC has been contracted to supply student health care services to the high school, and the staff and clinic space has more than doubled.

SEARHC took over providing services to the school last March, and the agreement allows students better access to primary care and prevention services.

SEARHC will be able to work with the tribal health organizations from each student's home, so health care services can be transferred when students leave school.

"We are really excited about the expanded health services available to Mt. Edgecumbe High School students," said Bill Denkinger, Mt. Edgecumbe High School Superintendent.

"Students are able to get more immediate attention, more complete follow-up services, and daily contact is available for issues students may have on a related health care need.

The staff assembled by SEARHC is professionally the best there is anywhere.

Kudos go to Dr. David Vastola, Cindy Baldwin-Kitka, Phyllis Hill and Mark Gorman for their relentless pursuit of making the MEHS Student Health Center a reality."

"This is a very exciting partnership between Mt. Edgecumbe High School and SEARHC," said Kari Lundgren, a physician assistant who will serve as clinic administrator.

"Primary, urgent and emergency services always have been available to the MEHS students through SEARHC Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital, including an evening clinic dedicated to teen health.

In the past there always has been an onsite nurse for a portion of the day, for triage, medication dispensing and case management, but we have expanded that model to include another nurse and onsite medical providers. We also have our own patient access/reception staff."

There now are two mid-level providers - Lundgren and nurse practitioner Nancy Cavanaugh, a longtime Sitka School District health teacher - who will provide part-time medical evaluation and care from 7:30-11:30 a.m. for urgent care and then take appointments from 2-6 p.m. for less time-sensitive matters and school physicals.

There also will be a morning urgent care clinic on Saturday.

The nursing staff includes Kathy Eggen, who was at MEHS last year, and former Sitka School District nurse Jean Arnold.

They will provide nursing coverage from 7:30 a.m. until almost bedtime. Ruth Joens will serve as field business office coordinator.

During the student orientation to start the school year, SEARHC held a two-day intensive screening of all students that included dental screening by two Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital dental providers and vision screening by optometry staff. SEARHC Health Promotion staff took heights and weights for BMI (body-mass index) calculations, and Sitka Public Health Nurses provided TB testing.

Since the school is a residential facility, the clinic staff had to make sure all student shot records are current.

"Needless to say, we keep pretty busy over here," Lundgren said.

"The staff is great and really excited to be part of this new venture. The school and dorm staff have been great to work with as well."