By Jeff Brady
I want you to know at the outset of this letter that I have a very open mind and a warm, engaging relationship with the indigenous first people of our community on the traditional lands of the ‘Lkoot. We can be proud of how the Skagway Traditional Council (STC) has moved our community in a positive direction, while being mindful of the sins of our colonial past, and that healing is still needed and ongoing.
I also believe that partnering with SEARHC is probably the best solution for our community’s health care needs. SEARHC has been very helpful with its testing site at STC during Covid. I can see good things happening in the future with SEARHC managing our clinic. However, I have a serious problem with the approach you have taken with our municipal government in regard to demanding a sale of the Dahl Memorial Clinic (DMC), versus the long-term lease that was proposed.
The Rasmuson family, through Well Fargo N. A., donated the land to the Municipality of Skagway in the early 2000s for construction of a new clinic. To ignite the fundraising, my good friend, the late Robert Carlin “Buckwheat” Donahue, embarked on a walk and paddle across the continent in 2005-2006. He succeeded in his mission because our clinic had saved his life from an early heart attack, and on his “Heartbeat Trail” he raised more than $70,000, the first of many community donations that helped leverage the vast sums of money needed to build a first-rate facility. His bronzed shoes are in a place of honor just inside the entryway. Several other large community donors, including members of my family, are named on the salmon wall at the entrance. And the name of the facility is properly named the E.A. and Jenny Rasmuson Community Health Center, operating as the Dahl Memorial Clinic. These names are important, and they cared about everyone coming through those doors. But more important is the fact that the community owns this clinic.
Now, I ask you, why would you want to change this? Our government leaders know what we all know right now: our clinic is not operating well. It needs help. You have offered to help. But why can’t you let the community still own the clinic and lease it to you, long-term?
Your website does not say anything about why you insisted on ownership. In fact, and this really irks me as a former editor of the town’s newspaper for 37 years, you have refused to take questions from the media. And I’m sure they have good, probing questions, as do many others. I realize some answers will come forward at the two public meetings but I can tell you that the answer to my one question above is critical to how I will vote.
I may be wrong but I believe many in town agree with me, and if you see this opinion raised strongly at the meetings, then I think you would do the community a huge service by stepping back and showing your willingness to negotiate a lease, rather than a sale. And I would further say that a vote probably would not even be needed. In this way, you would be most helpful.
I look forward to being a patient at DMC-SEAHRC in the future regardless of what happens, but I would feel much better knowing that each and every one of us in Skagway and Dyea still has even a very small ownership of our community clinic facility.
Editor’s note: This letter was written before the vote that would have determined if the community was willing to sell DMC to SEARHC was cancelled. Brady asked that his letter still be published as it spoke to the importance of the clinic’s history.