Ketchikan is a step closer to renewing its agreement with the nonprofit that runs the community’s hospital. The City Council says the terms of the new lease give the city more oversight and ensure needed investments and upgrades will be completed by the city and PeaceHealth, which has run the hospital for decades.
The new 20- to 40-year lease outlines millions in repairs and upgrades and seeks to cut down on large unforeseen medical bills. It also requires the hospital to provide regular updates to the city and take feedback from the council and community.
Council Member Dave Kiffer says the new lease is a big upgrade over the prior deal between PeaceHealth and the city, which was signed in 1981 and later extended. PeaceHealth and its predecessor, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, has run the city’s Tongass Avenue hospital since it first opened in the 1960s.
“We had 70 years of a lease that really had no teeth in it. And now finally, after some pretty significant work — and we spent some money on this, and we all got grief for spending money to remember of a year or so ago — the reality is we have a lease that actually says something and does something,” Kiffer said.
The city signed a $200,000 contract with ECG Management Consultants in 2019 to assess the community’s needs and assist in negotiations.
Immediately after voting on the lease, the council approved the creation of a new Healthcare Advisory Committee, which includes hospital and city representatives. Kiffer said that’ll go a long way towards addressing community members’ complaints about things like medical care and billing.
“A lot of the issues in the past were basically communication issues. And frankly, there was nothing in our lease that required PeaceHealth or the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace or whoever to communicate with us. And now there finally is,” Kiffer said.
The new committee is tasked with taking public input and ensuring both the city and PeaceHealth live up to the agreement, including by crafting a yearly report card. The committee is set to meet once a month for the first year of the agreement, which is expected to start October 1. After that, meetings will be held at least four times a year.
PeaceHealth executive and general counsel Ron Saxton said it’s an important step.
“I think this ability to have people from the city and people from the hospital talking to each other on a regular basis will really make this a much better partnership,” he said.
Council Member Janalee Gage also applauded the deal.
“I feel like we accomplished something with the hospital,” she said. “And I’m really proud of that work.”
The council is due to take a final vote on PeaceHealth lease at its August 5 meeting.