The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Clinic opens light on staff


Wolfgang Kurtz | The Seward Phoenix LOG

Providence Seward administrator Joe Fong looks on as Seward Community Health Center interim executive director Sharon Montagnino answers questions about the new clinic during an open house last week.

After opening its doors for the first time on Monday, the new Seward Community Health Clinic is close to hiring a permanent executive director, says interim executive director Sharon Montagnino. Two candidates have made the short list and either will fill the position, a decision likely to have been made at Wednesday evening meeting of the SCHC board.

The SCHC opened its doors with a temporary physician's assistant, or locum, who will provide medical service to patients during what may be a prolonged hiring process. At an open house last week, both Montagnino and Providence Seward administrator Joe Fong elaborated on the shortage of physicians impacting both SCHC and Providence Seward as well as health care providers throughout the country.

According to Montagnino, the demand for health care professionals is spiking as the Affordable Care Act extends coverage and access to an increasing number of patients. Fong also said that Providence is experiencing similar difficulties in hiring although both said that Seward presents its own challenges to hiring. The predominant local hurdle is the availability and cost of housing.

However, the SCHC has a full complement of office staff with two new hires working in the reception area and two covering outreach and billing services in the back office. Montagnino says that none of the staff from the former clinic chose to apply for the new positions. She pointed to a difference in pay and benefits for positions that were not directly comparable as being the likely reason for the lack of interest.

With her contract due to expire at the end of the month, Montagnino is anticipating working in tandem with an incoming executive director on the hire of permanent clinic staff. She says that talks are underway with a prospect for one of the physician vacancies and advertisements for physician's assistants are receiving some response.

With additional medical staff Montagnino expects the clinic to transfer one of its Tuesday or Thursday evening openings to Saturday, and provide weekend service by early summer. In the meantime, she and the new executive director will have a considerable challenge getting their new computerized records system up and running while juggling locums.

At this time, the clinic's computer system won't interface with Providence and well over 400 record transfer requests are being processed. Pending data entry, transferred records are being filed in the SCHC's interim paper based records system just like the old days. The SCHC and Providence are also setting up terminal software to view Providence records for re-entry into the new clinic software.

Montagnino says that Affordable Care Act regulations require computer systems to move toward easily exchangeable records which will simplify record transfers in the future. However, like other challenges the SCHC faces, the ACA transition further complicates bringing the new clinic up to full speed.

After opening on Monday, city officials and board members toured the operational SCHC, entering through the reception seating area shared with Providence. Although that room hasn't changed, six patient rooms and administrative offices behind the clinic doors are all freshly painted and equipped with new exam tables, equipment, computers and furniture.

When asked, Montagnino pointed out that the clinic does not provide urgent care and will refer all relevant cases to the Providence Alaska-operated emergency room in the same building. Providence Seward now cohabits with the SCHC in the city owned medical building at 417 First, occupying a significant portion of the building while providing 24-hour ER services as well as CAT scan imaging and other laboratory testing.

Services, including lab tests, between the two tenants will be billed separately to patients for the time being. In the short term, medicines will remain as a cost consideration as prescriptions will continue to be filled primarily at the Safeway pharmacy. However, the SCHC intends to move toward a clinic physician administered dispensary for commonly prescribed medicines such as antibiotics.

Montagnino emphasizes that, despite the continuing rollout of clinic services and some glitches, the SCHC is ready to serve the community. Patients can call 224-2273 for an appointment or information. The clinic will see patients whether or not their records have been transferred and walk-ins are accommodated on a first come, first served basis with prior appointments having priority.


Reader Comments


Our Family of Publications Includes:

Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2017

Rendered 01/21/2018 00:56