Hospitals face employee shortages, plans for expansion

PHOTO/Journal File
Demand for skilled workers should continue to be a top issue for Alaska’s health care industry.

Some organizations endeavor to help increase the number of workers needed for health services. One of them is the Juneau-based Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association.

"Work force development is probably our No. 1 issue," said Laraine Derr, president of the association.

The issue was emphasized this year when a lack of nursing staff led Providence Alaska Medical Center officials to divert ambulance traffic to other facilities, she said.

Early in the year Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association representatives plan to meet with University of Alaska Anchorage leaders to consider adding another nursing program, perhaps through distance education, Derr said.

Alaska health care providers could see new rules in 2002 from the federal government as a result of the East Coast terrorist attacks, she said.

"With the Sept. 11 calamity there are new regulations coming from the federal government for bioterrorisim and emergency preparedness," Derr said.

Expansion projects will be a major focus for health care facilities across the state.

Topping the list will be construction start-up on a hospital to replace the 50-year-old Bassett Army Hospital in Fairbanks.

A general contractor will be chosen in January for the $215 million project. Construction could begin in summer 2002, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Alaska District. Hospital completion is set for spring 2006.

The 32-bed, 259,000-square-foot hospital would serve the military, their dependents and retirees of Fort Greely, Fort Wainwright and Eielson Air Force Base.

The new facility will feature services including primary and urgent care, specialty clinics, pharmacy and laboratory services, Veterans Administration services, plus radiology, surgery, obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics and family practice departments.

Projects at the state’s two largest hospitals, 254-bed Alaska Regional Hospital estimated at $26 million in construction and 341-bed Providence Alaska Medical Center with about $30 million in renovations, should be complete in 2002.

On the Alaska Native Medical Center campus, an expansion project should be complete by March at the Anchorage Native Primary Care Center, said Southcentral Foundation spokeswoman Annette Evans. The project more than doubles the size of the facility.

Other facilities are planning for future projects. Officials from Central Peninsula General Hospital in Kenai are considering an expansion project that could double the size of its facility in coming years. Plans also call for opening a satellite facility in Kenai. The total project, which would be built in the next several years, could cost $60 million to $70 million.

Long-range planning by Fairbanks Memorial Hospital officials helped develop a list of possible future projects. Officials are considering improvements that could nearly double the size of the facility in 15 to 20 years.

Work on the master site plan was completed this fall, and hospital leaders were prioritizing a list of possible projects for construction. Some work could begin this summer, hospital officials said.

12/30/2001 - 8:00pm