PUBLISHED: 7:35 PM on Wednesday, November 14, 2007
SEARHC to break ground on patient housing project
SITKA - The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium will break ground on a new $3.45 million patient housing facility at 9:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 16, across from the SEARHC Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital.

The 7,820-square-foot facility will have 18 rooms, including two that are fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

The patient housing facility will serve Alaska Native and non-Native patients receiving health care services in Sitka, including care received at non-SEARHC facilities. The facility will be Medicaid-eligible and will offer affordable lodging rates for uninsured patients.

"I am very excited about this project," said Frank Sutton, SEARHC Vice President of Hospital Services. "This has been in the 'dream' stages for a long time. I remember sitting at my desk with one of my assistants sketching out what a patient housing facility on the Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital campus might look like about 10 years ago."

McGraw's Custom Construction of Sitka recently was awarded a $2.4 million contract to build the facility.

The total cost is about $3.45 million, with funding coming from the Denali Commission ($1.7 million), the Rasmuson Foundation ($750,000), the Paul G. Allen Foundation ($275,000), Tlingít-Haida Regional Housing Authority ($80,000), the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development ($50,000), and SEARHC ($568,000).

The patient housing facility follows a tradition of "hospital hospitality houses," such as The Ronald McDonald House. SEARHC operates community health centers in several rural Southeast Alaska communities, and many of these patients are brought to Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka for advanced health care services not available in their villages.

More of these medical procedures require little or no hospitalization, so patients need a place to stay while they await their trip home or to give the patient healing time to become physically able to travel.

SEARHC has some patient housing on its Sitka campus (MTE Arms), but has to contract with the Sitka Hotel and Shee Atika Corp. (Totem Square Inn) for additional patient housing needs.

Some SEARHC beneficiaries refuse or postpone travel for needed health services because of the lack of adequate or affordable housing in Sitka.

The new facility also will help SEARHC be able to handle the growing elderly population in the region, which is expected to rise considerably over the next 20 years.

The groundbreaking ceremony takes place at 9:30 a.m., with refreshments to follow at the Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital's Litehouse Cafeteria.

New SEARHC President/CEO Roald Helgesen will be at the ceremony, and this will be one of Roald's first public functions since his return to SEARHC.