Upgrades, New Construction to Improve Alaska's Healthcare Access: Multiple projects moving forward while budget uncertainty put others on hold.

Author:Orr, Vanessa

Healthcare construction in Alaska is influenced by many different factors, including an aging population; the need for specialized services such as mental health and addiction treatment; technological advancements; and requirements to update or replace facilities and equipment in order to meet state and federal regulations. Yet while it's important to invest in expanding, renovating, or even building brand new facilities, healthcare systems must at the same time keep a very tight grip on expenses, especially in this time of economic uncertainty.

Alaska Regional

At Alaska Regional, for example, construction is underway on replacement equipment projects and on renovations required to meet regulatory requirements. Work is also taking place to repair damage caused by the earthquake in November 2018. Other projects, such as the addition of twenty-four new psychiatric inpatient beds, are on hold.

"Right now, we're working on two replacement equipment projects, including a CT scanner that moved about twelve inches during the earthquake," says COO Jennifer Opsut of the $900,000 investment, which includes construction and equipment. "We are also replacing an MRI with newer technology, which will cost approximately $2.9 million, and replacing our Cath Lab with newer technology, at a total of $1.4 million."

Both the MRI and Cath Lab projects are expected to be completed next month. The hospital is also building a new Emergency Preparedness Conference Center to deal with future natural disasters, which is budgeted at $600,000 and is expected to be completed in December. A pharmacy remodel, the result of regulatory requirements, recently went out to bid with a December completion date.

"In the case of the preparedness center, it's not a matter of 'if but 'when'," says Opsut of the need to have a central planning space to deal with the next earthquake or emergency situation.

In the past five years, HCA, the parent company of Alaska Regional, has invested approximately $100 million in renovations and is expected to continue its support of local facilities. While this year's budget is similar to last year's, according to Opsut, the instability caused by the state's budget issues could influence future planning.

"Current and future projects absolutely could be affected by what happens with the governor's budget," she says. "Alaska Regional received a Certificate of Need for an upcoming behavioral health project, but that project is now on hold due to the uncertainty of the budget process.

"We are also...

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