Although the Ketchikan hospital’s lease with PeaceHealth isn’t up until 2023, the Ketchikan City Council agreed Thursday to move forward with Seattle-based ECG Management Consultants to help negotiate a new lease, or look at options.

Options could include asking other health-care providers to submit proposals to take over management of Ketchikan’s city-owned hospital.

Two people spoke during public comment at Thursday’s special meeting. Deborah Hayden and Licha Kelley-King asked the council to look into a new provider.

Here’s Kelley-King: “I would encourage you, strongly, to please put out an RFP for a different provider to see what other providers have to offer our community. Strongly encourage you to do that. If it hasn’t been done, I’m kind of wondering why we haven’t done that in the past. It’s been 30 years.”

PeaceHealth has been a presence in Ketchikan since the 1920s, when the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace opened a hospital downtown. When the City of Ketchikan built its hospital on Tongass Avenue, PeaceHealth signed a lease agreement to operate it, and has been the main healthcare provider in Ketchikan ever since.

In recent years, there have been complaints from members of the public about PeaceHealth management practices, particularly with billing.

ECG representatives Dan Merlino and Kevin Kennedy gave a presentation to the council Thursday. They said they worked with Sitka recently during its hospital-management transition process. Sitka is in the process of selling its community hospital to Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, or SEARHC.

Kennedy told the council that Ketchikan’s relationship with PeaceHealth is functional, so the city could choose to simply firm up details in the current lease.

“I do think one of the most important decisions this group will have to make is do we want to go out and explore broader partnership opportunities, or do we want to limit the scope of what we’re doing to building on the PeaceHealth arrangement,” he said.

Following an executive session to discuss financial details related to a new lease with PeaceHealth, the council returned to open session and voted unanimously to hire ECG. The scope of work includes working on a new lease with PeaceHealth, and looking at optional providers.

A contract with ECG will come back to the council at a later meeting.