PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center. (KRBD file photo)

While praising PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center staff and the health care provided by the local hospital, Ketchikan City Council members spent a fair amount of time Thursday complaining about the hospital’s management and lack of response to community concerns.

The hospital discussion was sparked by a proposed agreement between the city and PeaceHealth spelling out how a Council member can participate in the local community health board. The Council has traditionally had a member on that board, but the proposed agreement had some restrictions that didn’t sit well with the Council.  

Here’s Council Member David Kiffer. “Considering the effort that the community has gone through over the decades to work cooperatively – and we had a relationship with the little Sisters of St. Joseph going back before that and even PeaceHealth – there’s just something about this that strikes me as the biggest freaking slap in the face.”

And Council Member Mark Flora: “Let’s see, so we’d be a non-voting member that the hospital could vote to remove if they deem fit that would be excluded from executive session. So, why would anybody want to go to that meeting, not vote, to sit in the atrium while they have an executive session, wondering if they were voting to remove you anyway?”

Council Members Dick Coose and Janalee Gage suggested that the city try to find a new operator for the hospital, which is owned by the City of Ketchikan and run by PeaceHealth.

The Council unanimously rejected the proposed agreement. As a result, the city will no longer have a representative on the community health board.

A major and recurring complaint about the hospital is its billing system. Council members said they hear from many people who have been sent to collections before they ever received a bill. Mayor Lew Williams III noted that his wife received a bill from the hospital a full year after an appointment.

Williams suggested that the city send a letter to PeaceHealth’s corporate offices asking that they send someone to talk to the Council about what they plan to do to fix the billing issues.

The Ketchikan City Council also unanimously voted to place a measure on the October ballot that, if approved by voters, would ban Uber and other transportation network companies from operating in Ketchikan.

Flora abstained from that vote because of a conflict of interest.

There was plenty of public comment on that topic before the Uber vote. Those speaking against Uber cited the competition those independent drivers would give to established tour companies.

Council members were mostly concerned that the drivers pay applicable local sales taxes.

The anti-Uber ordinance passed in first reading. It will have to come back to the Council for a second vote before it can be placed on the Oct. 3rd ballot.

Another issue that generated quite a bit of public comment was a proposed resolution encouraging the state Marijuana Control Board to draft and approve regulations for on-site consumption lounges. That motion did not make it to the floor for debate, though. Council Member Julie Isom proposed the resolution, but no other Council member seconded the motion, so it died.