By Heidi Zemach for SCN Celebrity Cruises has confirmed that during its last sailing to Seward Friday, May 10th, the Celebrity Millennium cruise ship experienced “an elevated number of people with a gastrointestinal illness.” Over the course of the sailing, 164 of its 1,963 passengers and 30 of its 935 [...]
CHC board members Jean Bardarson, Marianna Keil and Richard Cruse. Also City Manager Jim Hunt (left) and Susan...
The Seward Community Health Center Board is hosting a public town hall meeting for the community on Saturday, May 4,...
The snow is melting fast, school is in its final weeks, and the sun isn’t setting until the late evening. It is...
April 24 Teleconference – PFCs in the Arctic: Sources, Transport, and Health Effects for Fish, Wildlife, and People
Statewide teleconference, Wednesday, April 24, 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM
Pefluorinated compounds (PFCs) are synthetic chemicals used to make materials stain- and stick- resistant. They can be found in non-stick cookware, grease-resistant food packaging, water-resistant outerwear and shoes, stain-resistant home furnishings and other household products. PFCs are persistent organic pollutants that accumulate in the bodies of fish, wildlife, and people and have been linked to adverse health effects, including reproductive and developmental effects, endocrine disruption and certain cancers.
Craig Butt, PhD, post-doctoral research fellow in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University
Carol Kwiatkowski, PhD, Executive Director and Senior Research Associate at The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX)
Plastic bags, forks, bottles, razors: These are all examples of common Single Use plastic items
o They account for roughly 4% of world oil production which is used as a feedstock to make plastics (a similar amount is used as energy in the process)
o They make up over 80% of all marine debris- including the pacific garbage patch- a mass of plastic trash roughly the size of Texas floating in the Pacific. If you’ve ever been to Hawaii you might have swam with parts of it, or laid on the beach with it, or seen evidence of the marine life that have died from swallowing it.
o Plastic never breaks down, but disintegrates to the molecular level and is inadvertently ingested by all organisms including humans, causing a variety of health problems.
Join Seward’s choice and take the plastic pledge!
Choose to reduce your own plastic consumption by bringing your own re-usable shopping bags to the store.
Tuesday April 23th Make your own shopping bag at Seward Library 3:30- 6:30
Learn more about the plastic problem worldwide.
About 40-45 Seward community members turned out for the Governor’s “Choose Respect” Rally on March 28th. Officers from the Seward Police Department and Alaska State Troopers also were there, as well as a long time Spring Creek correctional officer, Kenai Peninsula Borough Assemblymember, and a couple of young children.
Marianna Keil, Seward city councilwoman and Legislative Information officer briefly addressed the group, along with Rachael Bylsma special assistant to the Governor’s offices. Similar events took place in communities across Alaska to mark the importance of efforts to tackle Alaska’s high levels of rape, physical and sexual assault and domestic violence.
“It was an awesome day and the weather was perfect at the start of our rally,” said Dawn McDevitt, the DVSA Coordinator for SeaView Community Services.
“I envision clean, healthy, and local food available to all.” -Griffin Plush
Seward students Isabel Barnwell and Griffin Plush joined a group of 19 teens from around the state to advocate for local food in Juneau last week with Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA)’s Civics & Conservation Summit.
Thursday, March 14, the teens gathered in front of the Alaska State Capitol to ask legislators to support their vision for vibrant local food systems in Alaska; to recognize legislators who have championed this issue; and to share some barbequed wild salmon with legislators for lunch.
To recognize legislators who have stood up for Alaska’s food, and environmental health, teens presented five legislators with the 2013 AYEA Legislator of the Year award. Those honored are Sen. Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage), Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Homer), Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks), Rep Jonathan Kreiss-Thomkins (D-Southeast), and Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage).
The salmon barbeque marked the unveiling of “Recipes for Alaska’s Food Future” a book of stories, recipes, and photographs created by teens in AYEA to share their connection to Alaska’s food and vision for the future of food in Alaska.
“The most important thing I learned was how to talk to legislators, and more about how the political system works. Everything I learned will be so valuable in the future.” –Isabel Barnwell
The 20 teenagers came from communities around the state—ranging from Arctic Village to Togiak to Gusdavus—for a 4-day Civics & Conservation Summit in Juneau, Alaska. The Civics & Conservation Summit is an annual youth leadership training, started in 2000, that brings teens from diverse regions of the state together to build skills in civic action, issue analysis, advocacy and statewide leadership. AYEA is a program of Alaska Center for the Environment.
The Seward City Council has a work session tonight, March 18, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. to discuss the Community Health Center’s grant application. Recently the council heard a presentation on the value of the federally qualified community health center. As a co-applicant, it must voice support for the grant and also start thinking about the details of the role that the city would play versus a community health center board in the running and oversight of a health center, should it come about. These things are expected to be discussed tonight. The worksession is open to the public. It is in the council chambers at City Hall.
Heidi Zemach for SCN
The year 2012 was a challenging but good year, said Providence Seward Medical and Care Center Administrator Joe Fong, who gave his 2012 Annual Report at the City Council at the March 11 regular council meeting. The new administrator, who oversees 140 staff and medical providers, was officially hired four months ago, after being the interim manager following the resignation of Chris Bolton in July 2011.
The financial performance census shows it took in $18.11 million in actual revenues, and expended $16.3 million. It had $900,000 worth of charity care or bad debt. The recent negotiated increased reimbursements from Medicaid for client days at the long-term care facility will help the hospital’s financial situation, Fong said.
On the positive side, the staff at Seward Providence is working to perfect the “green care” model at Seward Mountain Haven. Inspections of the facility lately have shown “no significant findings,” which means they turned up no problem areas that needed to be addressed or corrected. Quality measures seem to be having a positive effect. Except for July, there were significantly fewer patient falls at the Seward Mountain Haven long-term facility, Fong said. The facility averaged four falls per 1000 resident days. The national average is five falls per 1000 patient days. At the hospital, there was only one hospital-acquired infection in 2012. Until that case in December, the hospital had gone14 months without a hospital-acquired infection, the result of a lot of work by hospital staff, “So Kudos to the team for that,” Fong said. An employee satisfaction survey showed that had also improved, and that the staff members felt they were encouraged to learn and grow.
On the other hand, Fong acknowledged that the facility still has challenges.
He has received several calls from patients who have had wonderful experiences, and who told him they received excellent care. But he has also heard from people who do not feel they get that. Concerns mentioned included the hope for another option besides the ER on weekends or after hours, and less time waiting or better communication on why they’re running late. “It’s disheartening to hear that we don’t provide excellent care consistently,” Fong said. It’s an area the team needs to improve, so that it is provided to every single patient. “That is what is expected of us, and we should expect that as well,” he said. “I have the pleasure of working a lot with these folks,” Fong said. “They are fully engaged, and want to provide the best service to everyone. But we are all human. I want to encourage them, to let them know that we can be more than human.”
Fong, who also sits on the Community Health Board, which is trying to bring about a federally qualified community health clinic, said Providence supports that effort, and sees it as a means to provide expanded access and services to the community, which was an area of need outlined in the two community needs surveys. Under the current hopes, a CHC board, not Providence, would operate a new clinic inside the hospital, divesting Providence of the existing one and its responsibilities and financial shortfalls. There’s no guarantee that Seward will be selected as a FQHC site, however, so Providence is making an effort to improve its own clinic in every area, from the way it delivers care, to the way it bills, Fong said. Offering a sliding fee scale and lab tests on demand, at subsidized rates, were part of those changes. Meanwhile, Providence also is reviewing its staffing, their skill levels and mix of skills. It is hiring a full-time Physicians Assistant to help with this provider piece. There’s a position open for a certified nurses assistant, and several support staff positions . “There are still a lot of hurdles to overcome but I am confident we will be able to work through those,” Fong said.
Councilmember Bob Valdatta raised the issue of Seward’s reliance on a small volunteer ambulance corps, and intermittent service provided by ambulances and life flights from Anchorage that can sometimes result in a patient waiting days to get to an emergency care facility. Ambulance service is not within Providence’s scope of authority, Fong said, but he has been talking with Anchorage Life Med ambulance services about the issue. The hospital also is using telemedicine to provide support care when a patient is awaiting emergency transport to an outside facility. A telestroke program hooks the providers here up with a neurologist in Anchorage for patients suffering from a stroke. The facility also may use electronic ICU services to provide critical care physician support for patients until they can be transported to a higher level of care, he said.
Mayor David Seaward mentioned a friend who had to pay $600 to stich up a gash he received, who felt the hospital charged too much. How would Fong convince people like his friend to go to the Seward hospital for care? he asked.
As we work on our challenges, and improve our services, I think that will go a long way to alleviate the concerns I’ve heard. From a payment, emergency department perspective, we are required to care for anyone regardless of their ability to pay. Fong said it would be better to work with these patients early in process however, rather than in an emergency, he said.
One of the “coolest things” he has learned and experienced during his four months here, is the interconnectedness between the hospital, the city, and other community and nonprofit groups, Fong said. Providence Seward provided over 1800 community volunteer hours last year, including 50 hours volunteering for the Mount Marathon race. They provided over 30 pounds of food and $90 to the food bank and $800 in gifts for adopted families to the Angel Tree event at Christmas. It also donated $63,000 in-kind services for Seward Wellness For All, over $11,000 on-demand lab tests, and over $300,000 in charity care including sliding fee-scales.
By Heidi Zemach for SCN
The Seward City Council unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the general terms to settle a dispute over Medicaid rate reimbursements between the State of Alaska and Providence Seward Medical & Care Center. The action was taken at special meeting Thurs Feb 29. The mayor was absent. The settlement would increase the rate charged for each patient each day by $137, and would bring in approximately $6.1 million more in reimbursements to Seward over four years.
Two million would go to the city to repay a loan made to PSMC to cover previous hospital’s shortfalls. The remainder would be available to cover the hospital’s ongoing operational shortfalls, costs and cash flow.
The city owns the hospital and new long-term care facility, but they are operated on the city’s behalf by Providence Health & Services, a non-profit.
Under the current terms, in FY 13 Medicaid would have reimbursed the city for the hospital by an estimated $754 per patient per day. That amount would have increased with inflation to $767 by FY 2014 or an estimated $24,300,000 in reimbursements over four-years.
With this settlement proposal however, in FY 13, Medicaid reimbursements would rise to $896 per patient per day, and to $913 by FY 2014. This amounts to an estimated $30,400,000 reimbursement over the four-year period, and represents a $6.1 million increase over what was being, or was to have been paid, based on a 30-patient average.
PSMC filed the dispute with the State Department of Health and Social Services over the FY 2011 Medicaid reimbursement which had been established using FY 2009 as the “base year,” and was therefore slated to have been used for the three additional fiscal years to follow. PSMC argued that Seward should not be held to costs of the lower reimbursement rate for entire full four-year cycle. That particular year, the year of the move to the new facility in October 2009, represented an anomaly, they said, as the lower priced old Wesley facility rates had been applied. The clients occupied Wesley for the first three-quarters of the year, but then most moved into the new Mountain Haven facility for the last quarter of the year, they said. Mountain Haven’s per-patient reimbursement rates should be significantly higher in subsequent years as they would have incorporated the cost of operating the new $27 million facility, its new model of care, and have included add-ons to help repay the bond for the cost of construction, the hospital nonprofit argued.
The state said that PSMC was not entitled to either a waiver of the lower cost, or the other charges issue because the methodology it uses allows Alaska to base its rates on the lowest rate of reimbursement if there are more than one facilities in use during the base year. The state said the city had chosen to charge client reimbursements at the lower rate that year, although its own costs were higher.
The state offered to settle negotiations by increasing the per-diem or daily base rate for Seward Mountain Haven by $137. Overall, the financial health of the facility will depend on its elderly population numbers, Erchinger said.
Seward still owes $25.6 million for Seward Mountain Haven. The city repays the bond with annual $1.9 million payments from facilities revenues.
Although the total disputed amount that PMSC (and city) felt entitled to receive was actually $12 million, after a lengthy negotiation process Providence recommended that the city support the settlement in order to avoid what may have been a very lengthy and expensive litigation process for both sides.
The amount that clients (or their families) are charged to attend the long-term care facility seems unreasonable. Who among us could actually afford to pay $896 a day, $26,880 a month or $322,500 per year out of pocket to live at Seward’s long-term care facility? But understand, nobody is making huge profits on the charges, not the City, nor PSMC, said City Finance Director Kris Erchinger. As other long term care facilities are replaced statewide – their costs also will rise significantly.
While the cost of staying at the Seward facility is more than staying at Anchorage’s aging facilities, the rates at facilities in Cordova, Sitka and Norton Sound are even more expensive, Erchinger said. Providence Anchorage has just opened a new long-term care facility, modeled after the Seward Mountain Haven facility, so their costs also will escalate significantly when the cost of the paying for the new facility are factored in. Kodiak also just breaking ground on a new $16 million facility, and its rates also will likely be comparable to ours when completed, she said.
In 2010, the City of Seward forwarded $750,000 to PSMC to fund the implementation of a new federally-approved electronic medical records (EMR) system, including $350,000 to cover operational shortfalls due to the rate reimbursement disputes. PSMC has since received the $400,000 federal reimbursement for its new records system, but the city has not asked the hospital to reimburse the general fund for that amount yet due to its other cash shortfall.
Just a reminder that Kayak Adventures will be sponsoring a Wilderness First Responder class in Seward from April 20 – 28… and a WFR Recert class from April 12 – 14. Please contact Wendy Doughty at fun@KayakAK.com or 406.980.0762 for more information! We still have space available, and we hope to see you there. Spread the word!
Seward Prevention Coalition is a group of community volunteers from a variety of backgrounds advocating wellness and positive change in Seward. The Coalition was formed in 2005 and now consists of over 40 members from 18 different organizations in Seward and the surrounding area. The mission of the Seward Prevention Coalition is “Partnering to promote all dimensions of wellness through education, advocacy and support.”
Through community interviews and assessments, Seward Prevention Coalition has identified that:
· Seward has a culture of acceptance of underage drinking and drug use.
· Seward has a culture of acceptance of unhealthy drinking and drug use and modeling irresponsible behavior to our youth.
Seward Prevention Coalition is in the process of assimilating the projects and ideas from the January 24th Town Hall Meeting….stay tuned and if you are interested in joining the Coalition or helping with projects on prevention of underage drinking/drug use, please email Joanie at : firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s what other Alaskans are doing to prevent underage drinking and drug use:
HB 80, a bill to remove cruise ship/large passenger vessel water quality discharge standards in Alaska, and revert them to the way it used to be before a 2006 citizen’s initiative called for stricter requirements took effect, has been fast-tracked through the state legislature. It passed the House February 4th, and is now going to the state senate for approval. In proposing the bill, Governor Parnell drew from some points made in his hand-picked science-team’s preliminary report on the issue. The bill discontinues the work of the team mid-way, however, not allowing the team to take the additional two years promised to complete studying the issue and producing a final report. To learn more about this bill, and the science team’s report, and internal dissenter, there are some very interesting articles in the Anchorage Daily News, which can be read on ADN.com
Read more here: Science panel report used to push cruise ship bill after DEC said it wouldn’t., published: February 9, 2013 (Sunday edition by Richard Mauer.)
Or this Anchorage Daily News editorial: Our View: Cruise ship bill needs a cold, hard look – not a rush job
Seward typically sees three to four cruise ships per week, sometimes more from mid- May through early September, some carrying up to 3,000 passengers and even more crew members.
Rep. Paul Seaton, of Homer, was the only republican House member to vote against the bill. He had hoped for greater protection for critical fish habitats:
“It changes the standards that were put in place by the voter initiative and
allows permanent mixing zones. I voted against passage because removal of the
target standards, rather than giving the ships longer to comply as technology
improves, will not lower pollution in confined state waters and can impact other
resources. I am disappointed that DEC was unwilling to remove the agency’s
ability to allow these discharges in the 6 statutorily designated Critical
Habitats, including Kachemak Bay. I hope in the end more consideration will be
given to reducing the impact of discharges from one million cruise ship visitors
per year and we can avoid potential conflicts with other uses of our sensitive
coastal waters.” (quoted from Seaton’s weekly newsletter to his constituents).
February 13 Teleconference – Toxic Chemicals in Your Home: New Study Shows Increase in Flame Retardants in Couches
Wednesday, February 13, 9:00 am – 10:00 am
Free one-hour teleconference sponsored by the Alaska Collaborative on Health and the Environment.
About the Call:
A recent peer-reviewed study by Duke University tested over 100 polyurethane foam samples from couches across the U.S. and found that 85% contained potentially toxic or untested flame retardants. As these chemicals are released from our furniture in the form of microscopic dust, we inhale and ingest them constantly. Many flame retardants raise health concerns, including cancer, hormone disruption, and harmful effects on brain development. The study found an increase in the use of flame retardants in newer couches, despite no data demonstrating fire safety benefit from their use. Join lead author of the study, Dr. Heather M. Stapleton, for a discussion of the study’s findings and health effects of toxic flame retardants, and Pamela K. Miller, executive director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics for an update on what’s happening at the state, federal, and international levels to halt exposure to toxic flame retardants. We will also discuss how these chemicals are accumulating in the Arctic and how they might affect human and environmental health.
To learn more, or sign-up and receive dial-up instructions: http://bit.ly/Feb13Call
Wednesday, February 6, 9:00 am – 10:00 am
Free one-hour teleconference sponsored by the Alaska Collaborative on Health and the Environment.
About the Call:
Nurses are becoming increasingly engaged in environmental health issues including chemical policy reform. They are concerned about preventing diseases of environmental origin, but may lack the expertise to effectively advocate for change. Nurses that are both informed about environmental and public health problems, and empowered to effectively influence policy, can be a powerful force to vastly improve public health.
Presenters Katie Huffling, RN, MS, CNM, Director of Programs at the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments and Kathy Curtis, executive director of Clean and Healthy New York will provide a brief overview of market and government chemical policies currently being considered, and explore how nurses can utilize advocacy tools to advance public health protections.
Learn more, or sign-up to receive the dial-up instructions at: http://bit.ly/Feb6Call
Free Avalanche Awareness Class Saturday Feb. 9th 10am-3PM, Seward AK
(Still 10 am (I noticed an older post) at new Seward Library just a reminder if interested we have room! See you there)Updated 2/8/2013
Topics covered include: Human Factors, Terrain, Snowpack and Weather, and Avalanche Rescue including avalanche beacon practice. Come join us if you want to learn about avalanche safety or just want a review.
Sponsored by Chugach National Forest
Location Seward Library, 239 6th ave, Seward AK
For information contact: Alex McLain Avalanche Specialist at (907) 288-7710 or 362-3720 (cell Phone).
Bring some warm clothes since we will be outside for a few hours and an avalanche beacon if you have one.
Wednesday, January 23, 9:00 am to 10:00 am
At every stage – from mining, transportation, combustion, and disposal – coal development threatens human health, air quality, and water quality. Learn more
Presenters will discuss:
- Current coal mining proposals in Alaska;
- The adverse health effects of inhaling diesel particulate matter and coal dust – a significant risk for those communities along truck and train transportation routes; and
- How toxic emissions (including mercury and other heavy metals) from coal-fired power plants in Asia travel back to Alaska, polluting our air, water, and fish.
- Steven G. Gilbert, PhD, Director and Founder of the Institute of Neurotoxicology and Neurological Disorders (INND), Affiliate Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington and author of A Small Dose of Toxicology- The Health Effects of Common Chemicals.
- Regna Merritt, Campaign Director: Prevent Coal Exports, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility. Regna is a retired physician assistant who works with health professionals and the Power Past Coal Coalition to identify and prevent negative health impacts of proposed coal export projects in the Pacific Northwest.
- Heidi Zimmer, Environmental Health and Justice Coordinator, Alaska Community Action on Toxics.
To join this call: Sign up or call ACAT at 222-7714 to receive the dial-up instructions.
There are a few spots left in the new Beginner Tai Chi class at the Rez starting up next Monday, Jan. 21. Visit or call REZ Fitness (224-6506) or email Julie (email@example.com) to register for this 10-week series.
Rosier will also offer Continuing Tai Chi classes at the Rez on Thursday evenings this semester. The continuing class is open to any students who have already taken a series of beginning classes or who have previous tai chi experience. Email Julie for details.