Navarre opposes surgery center, calls for CPH support

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said Tuesday he was “hopeful” the state would reject the Certificate of Need application from a group of local surgeons looking to build a surgery center in Kenai.

At a joint Kenai and Soldotna Chambers of Commerce luncheon, Navarre spoke about the health care industry in general and touched on Kahtnu Ventures’ proposal to build a $9 million, 8,365 square foot building to perform an estimated 1,700 outpatient surgeries a year. The proposal is currently being considered by the state after public comment closed Monday.

“I am hopeful the Certificate of Need will not be approved and that the center will not be built,” Navarre said. “That is what I feel is best for our community and for the borough. I think that is a result of the fact that we own two hospitals.”

Navarre said the action of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly to formally oppose the center was “proper” and “responsible” and also praised the Soldotna City Council for also opposing the need for such a center.

“I don’t think it is needed at this time in terms of capacity,” he said. “And secondly, I think that if there is a need, and at some point in the future there will be a need, I think that facility should be owned by the hospital, should be operated by the hospital and the proceeds from an outpatient surgery center should be used to benefit the citizens of this community. There are already enough profit centers in health care.”

During his speech, Navarre also called for residents to support Central Peninsula Hospital, whose officials are fighting the proposal on the grounds the surgery center would take away one of the more lucrative service lines it offers, thus damaging their less profitable areas and the non-profit hospital overall.

“Central Peninsula Hospital needs your support,” Navarre said. “It needs to be consistent and it needs to be sustained and it needs to be unwavering ... to make sure that we provide the benefit and use our community asset — the hospital — to the best benefit of all of our citizens.”

Navarre also speculated on if and how the community would view the project differently if proposed by an outside group.

“I think that most of you would probably agree that yes, we would (view it differently),” he said.

However, what’s most important, the mayor said, is what happens after the state’s decision.

“We will either have an outpatient surgery center that is built and deal with those associated impacts or we will not have one and we will still, as a community, have a little bit of dissention between the hospital currently and some of those in our medical community and we need to try and bridge that gap,” he said. “We need to try and figure out how we move forward as best we can from a consensus standpoint.”

Karen Lawfer, Certificate of Need coordinator for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, couldn’t give specifics on the number of comments she received regarding Kahtnu’s proposal.

But it is “a lot,” she said.

“I have never received as many comments,” said Lawfer, who has been in her position for five years.

According to state information, a staff analysis of the application and recommendation must be submitted to the commissioner of the Division of Health Care Services by Feb. 19 unless additional time, not to exceed 30 days, is granted by the commissioner.

A decision by the commissioner must be made within 45 days of receipt of the staff recommendation unless additional public notice is given that additional information or analysis is required by the commissioner to make a decision.

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