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Providence survey targets Peninsula on health care

Posted: Sunday, March 21, 2010

As Providence Alaska Medical Center has done in other communities around the state, last week it conducted a two-day survey of residents in the central and southern Kenai Peninsula.

"We regularly survey in other markets besides Anchorage," said Becky Hultberg, regional director for communications and marketing for Providence in Anchorage.

The surveys are done on the average of once a year, with Fairbanks and the Mat-Su the most recent areas surveyed. It has been several years since residents of the Kenai Peninsula have been addressed. With Providence providing medical care many communities do not, it is, in some ways, the "state's community hospital," according to Hultberg.

Providence provides a level of infant care not available elsewhere in Alaska and "is the only children's hospital. It provides advance trauma care and cardiac surgery performed nowhere else in Alaska but Anchorage," Hultberg said. "Because of the nature of our services, we have an interest in understanding what people think about Providence."

To conduct the survey, the medical center contracted with a survey group who contracted with a survey house. No conversations occurred between Providence and the individuals actually conducting the survey. Responders were asked a range of questions including what services they might want to see in their community; which hospital they would prefer if receiving care in Anchorage; where they were more likely to choose to receive medical care, Anchorage or Seattle.

"Really, when Alaskans are in need of a higher level of medical care than their community can provide, they often come to us," Hultberg said. "We want to understand what they think about us and the services they currently have in their community.

Derotha Ferraro, public relations director for South Peninsula Hospital, said she had been notified and given a copy of the survey by Providence.

"It's not any big secret what they're doing," Ferraro said. "They called us two weeks ago and informed us that this was a standard piece of their market evaluation. They have offered and are going to share the results of the survey with Central Peninsula Hospital and South Peninsula Hospital. That includes Kenai, Soldotna and south through our service area."

Asked if the survey was Providence taking a step toward purchasing the two Kenai Peninsula Borough-owned hospitals, Ferraro said, "It's easy to read between the lines and some might read between the lines incorrectly. It is what it is. I'm anxious to see the results of the survey and really hope recipients answered the questions honestly."

Hultberg turned to Providence's philosophy to answer the same question. She pointed out that with 100 years of service to Alaska, Providence views itself as a service organization. In addition to the center in Anchorage, it manages critical access hospitals in Seward, Valdez and Kodiak.

"Our philosophy is not one of acquisition. It's one of service," Hultberg said. "In instances of hospitals we do manage, we were invited in as a partner by the community. We are not about acquiring hospitals; we are about serving communities."

As an example of service, Hultberg pointed to the development of eICU, an electronic intensive care unit. It includes a bank of computers at Providence that enable a physician and a critical care nurse at Providence to view with a camera the care of patients in their community facilities and take patients' vital signs.

"The goal of the program is that we can provide a service that would allow a small hospital that does not necessarily have critical care nurses to keep patients in their hospitals that otherwise might have to be medivaced to Anchorage," Hultberg said. "It's an example of something we're doing that doesn't necessarily generate revenue for us, but provides a service because it's the right thing for the patient."

With the survey completed, Hultberg estimated the results would be available soon.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky.@homernews.com.



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