Bristol Bay tribes call for significant changes in Dillingham hospital leadership

KDLG recieved this copy of a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services survey of the Kanakanak Hospital pharmacy from the Curyung Tribal Council. (PDF provided by Avery Lill/KDLG)


Four tribes are asking the Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation to hold a full board meeting to address serious deficiencies at the pharmacy of the Kanakanak Hospital as laid out in a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services survey.

The Curyung Tribal Council received a copy of the survey earlier this week, which CMS conducted in September. According to CMS, chronic errors in the Kanakanak Hospital pharmacy are placing patients at immediate risk of harm.

Curyung’s concerns about the hospital, however, reach far beyond the pharmacy.

“Although this report is directed at pharmaceutical concerns in addressing mismanagement happening within pharmacy practices at the health corporation, it also outlines concerns regarding the governance structure and lack of response from the administration as well as what appear to be significant human resource-related issues regarding a fear of retaliation for employees reporting safety concerns,” said Curyung tribal administrator Courtenay Carty.

The tribe is calling for changes in hospital leadership, although they have not said specifically what adjustments they hope to see.

“I think it’s pretty clear to our council that some significant changes need to happen in the administration as well as the executive committee and governance structure of the health corp. organization,” said Carty.

Curyung said Bristol Bay tribes are not the only ones who want to see change. It said it received a memo from Kanakanak Hospital medical staff that addressed the CMS survey and called for changes in the top level of hospital administration. The memo was sent to the full BBAHC board,

In addition to requesting a full BBAHC board meeting, the Curyung Tribal Council is exploring other options for health care.

Exterior photo of the Kanakanak Hospital in Dillingham, Alaska.

The Kanakanak Hospital in Dillingham. (Photo by Isabelle Ross/KDLG)

“Because we authorize this tribal health organization to provide services on our behalf, at any time we’re able to explore our options to rescind that authorization and that is something the tribal council is discussing and trying to work toward a solution on at this time,” Carty explained.

Portage Creek Village Council, the Traditional Council of Togiak and the New Stuyahok Traditional Council are also asking BBAHC to hold a full board meeting in response to the CMS survey.

The Togiak Traditional Council declined to comment on the survey findings. However, it said it fully supports the medical staff’s memo, asking for change in hospital leadership.

Wassillie Gust, president of the New Stuyahok Traditional Council, said the council is in support of a full board meeting, which he believes is vital for resolving problems in the pharmacy. He said he also has concerns about BBAHC and hospital leadership.

“I believe that the executive committee and the CEO need a re-evaluation or an evaluation. Been sitting stagnate too long,” said Gust. “Not that I have anything against the CEO. Just that they need to look down and refocus on where health issues need to go.”

Gust added that, as a patient of the hospital, he requested a refill over a month ago of medication he takes daily. He said he has been out of medication for weeks and that the pharmacy is not responding to his calls.

“I’m out of meds until someone delivers them. I’m beginning to think everybody’s gone to the dog team there.”

Kanakanak Hospital must provide CMS with a corrective action plan for the deficiencies found in the survey by Nov. 7. The hospital declined KDLG’s request for comment.

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