By Melinda Munson
According to new Dahl Memorial Clinic (DMC) Medical Director Brent Kunzler, the clinic is currently fully staffed, however, two of the providers are temporary and Nurse Practitioner Johanna Huff’s contract is set to expire in November.
Huff, who stepped down as the clinic’s medical director in June to focus on patient care, resigned from the clinic in September. She rescinded her resignation shortly after Executive Director Este Fielding proffered her resignation.
Fielding’s resignation occurred roughly one week after a DMC board of directors executive session. The meeting had staff surveys and a director evaluation on its agenda. Fielding’s last day will be Dec. 17. She has served at the clinic since 2019.
It is unclear who has the final say over whether Huff, a contract clinic provider, will remain.
DMC Board of Directors President Cory Thole said municipal code and the 2017 co-applicant agreement between the municipality and the clinic have discrepancies.
Chapter 3.17 of Skagway Municipal Code outlines the function and responsibilities of the clinic board of directors. The code states, “The board has no authority to hire and fire municipal employees, including clinic employees.”
At issue is whether contract clinic providers are municipality employees.
Thole said the co-applicant agreement exempts employees such as Huff.
“I intend to work with the clinic to clarify this issue and will make that public when it is solidified,” said Borough Manager Brad Ryan, who declined to comment specifically on a personnel matter.
Community members who wish to correspond with the clinic board should send emails to email@example.com.
According to Thole, correspondence sent to this email address is processed by the clinic’s administrative assistant, then the administrative manager and finally the executive director who passes the emails on to the board. All clinic employees are bound by HIPAA privacy laws.
Community members wishing for what Thole described as the “smallest audience possible” may email correspondence directly to the executive director who will then forward it to the board.
Thole said the board is discussing how the community could directly contact them as there is currently no official mechanism in place for direct correspondence.
“That needs to be established,” Thole said.
Borough Clerk Emily Deach said she occasionally receives correspondence meant for the board of directors and will forward it, but this is not preferred as the emails sometimes contain confidential medical information.
A special clinic meeting is scheduled for Nov. 26 to discuss Huff’s contract in executive session.
“We are committed to working with the city manager as a team,” Thole said, “and accepting decisions that are made as a group.”
Thole said the clinic is working to address its staff shortage. A registered nurse will join DMC for the winter season, a new medical assistant has been hired, a provider interview has been completed and another provider will be interviewed soon.