Denali Commission grants target health-care services

Posted: Friday, September 12, 2003

The level of medical services on the Kenai Peninsula got a boost this week as the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced that local hospital and long-term care facilities were in line for major grants through the Denali Commission.

Central Peninsula General Hospital has been awarded a $300,000 grant and will purchase upgraded medical imaging equipment that could enable some patients to avoid making trips to Anchorage for certain procedures.

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) equipment allows doctors to make detailed images of the inside of the human body without surgery. But some patients cannot handle the MRI equipment currently used at the hospital. The Denali grant will buy newer MRI equipment that will require less scan time.

"Patients who cannot tolerate the present MRI will no longer have to travel to get this service," said Susan Caswell, CPGH's grants coordinator. "We are pleased to be offering continuing improvements in noninvasive diagnostic imaging services right here for the central Kenai Peninsula."

Meanwhile, Heritage Place Nursing Facility in Soldotna was awarded $290,000 for a medication management system, roof and other general repairs and upgrades, according to a press release from the Department of Health and Social Services.

"These projects will enhance the safety and well-being for the residents at Heritage Place and help us manage our facility more efficiently and effectively," said administrator Dennis Murray.

On the east side of the peninsula, Providence Seward Medical and Care Center was awarded $288,000 to purchase equipment and enable it to offer CT (computerized tomography) scan services. A CT scan is a method of making multiple X-ray images of the body or parts of the body and using a computer to construct from those images cross-sectional views.

"CT services are not offered here now, and the closest facility is in Anchorage, a 2 1/2-hour drive or 45-minute flight away, weather permitting," said administrator Sandy Reese. She said the diagnostic tool was an invaluable asset and a gift to the community.

South Peninsula Hospital also is in line for a grant. The $250,000 it will receive from the Denali Commission will replace a bank of oxygen cylinders that require a high level of daily maintenance with a new bulk-oxygen delivery system that will require only periodic maintenance.

"This is a great opportunity for a long-needed update to our medical oxygen supply system," said Charlie Button, the hospital's chief financial officer. "This system is capable of meeting all of the hospital's oxygen needs at a tremendous cost savings."

Larry Dallas, the hospital's director of support services, said the current system uses oxygen tanks delivered to the hospital from an outside provider, while the new system will generate its own oxygen. Supply became a potentially serious problem last fall when floods closed the Sterling Highway.

"It looked for a while like we might have to fly oxygen in," Dallas said.

The new system will only require maintenance about three times a year, as opposed to the almost daily care the oxygen tank bank required, he said.

The grant came at an advantageous time, Button said, because the hospital is about to launch a multimillion dollar expansion project, and installation of the system during the renovation will save considerable cost and be accomplished without additional inconvenience to patients or staff.

The Denali Commission grants are part of some $6.85 million being handed out to a variety of health and social services projects in 19 Alaska communities that won recommendations from the department.

Health and Social Services officials pulled together an ad hoc health care committee earlier this year to help allocate the funds to a mix of projects in hospitals, clinics, long-term care and social service facilities.

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