By Melinda Munson

The assembly voted down Resolution 21-22R, which would have added an advisory question to the Oct. 5 ballot stating the following: 

Do you support the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) taking over the responsibility of providing health care for the community of Skagway from the Municipality of Skagway and the Dahl Memorial Clinic (DMC)? Yes or No. 

In the four to two vote on Aug. 19, Assemblymemebrs Orion Hanson and Reba Hylton were in the minority. 

The DMC suffered more staffing losses this week as long-time provider Johanna Huff resigned and as did Medical Accounts Analyst Melanie Hampton.

Assemblymember Sam Bass maintained his position that there wasn’t enough information available.

“You’re asking me to jump off a cliff but I don’t know what’s down there. Is there water or are there rocks?”

Assemblymember Deb Potter was undecided until recently. 

“After spending the last couple of weeks listening to people talk about this, I do have concerns now, that as was said here tonight, that it’s not ballot ready,” she said.

“I appreciate that we’re moving forward with the information exchange but Oct. 5th is a little less than seven weeks away at this point and I’m concerned about rushing on this,” she continued.

Assemblymember Dustin Stone agreed.

“After attending the joint work session of the HEW and the clinic board, I think I am in that same place. I think this was brought up with the best of intentions, trying to get this onto the regular ballot, and I do have some concerns if it does end up being a special election, but it does feel premature at this point — given the rate at which we’re getting information,” he said.

With a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) approved by the assembly, SEARHC will be in Skagway on Sept. 1.

“SEARHC already has a long list of questions that were generated at the joint work session between HEW and the clinic board,” said HEW Chair, Hylton. 

“We’re currently working on an itinerary for their visit to Skagway so that we can all accomplish as much as possible. And when I say we, that includes the clinic board,” she said.

While the municipality investigates the idea of giving up control of the clinic, the DMC Board of Directors (DCBD) is seeking to solve the clinic’s problems within the organization.

According to Cory Thole, DCBD president, the board is working on a two-pronged approach to identify areas of improvement. DMC hired an interim medical director to help with operations and review medical practices. The board is also trying to engage a consultant to review the administrative side of the clinic.

“Everything is a process. The board is diligently reaching out and gathering quantifiable information to make the best decisions moving forward to provide the community with the health care it deserves,” Thole said.