Sitka Community Hospital is suspending all scheduled and emergency surgeries at the end of this month. The new policy will go into effect on February 28, the same day the city will unveil the draft of their hospital sale agreement to the public.
Sitka Community Hospital CEO Rob Allen said the move to suspend scheduled surgeries was inevitable due to the high attrition at the hospital. At an assembly meeting earlier this month, Allen said the hospital was down to 145 full time employees. Now they’re at 144.
The most recent loss was a nurse on the skilled surgical team. Allen said losing the nurse caused the hospital to hit a staffing threshold for scheduled surgeries. He said they still have a surgeon on staff, but moving forward the hospital would only be scheduling outpatient surgeries at Mountainside Clinic.
Sitka Community Hospital suspended 24-hour emergency surgical coverage in 2018.
Allen said they were working with SEARHC to ensure adequate patient care during the transition.
“We’ve been talking to SEARHC. They’re fully aware this is happening and they’re ready to work with us in moving patients over there.”
Allen says the decision to end scheduled surgeries could save the hospital money, though how much, if any, remains to be seen. He says the financial impact of losing nurses would be weighed against losing the high-value procedures.
“I’m not sure at this point. We’ll have to do the analysis,” he said . “We’ll be down the nurses. But we’ll still have the surgeon on staff. We won’t have the revenue that some of these procedures would be bringing in.”
The Sitka Assembly has been exploring the possibility of merging its local hospital with SEARHC for over a year. Although that process appears headed toward a conclusion in the next few months, Allen says that high turnover was in part due to uncertainty about the future.
“We’re still feeling that uncertainty of what’s going on with the transition,” he said. “We haven’t started the transition planning yet, that’s going to start next week, and I’m hoping that will help.”
Allen said he was 90-percent certain the merger would happen although it is still up to a vote of the assembly. Under a draft timeline, the assembly would unveil the merger proposal on February 28, hold a community-wide town hall meeting in March, and then put the question to a final vote. If approved, Sitka Community Hospital would be under the management of SEARHC by July 1.