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YKHC announces Home Care closure


Approximately 30 Home Care employees are affected by Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation layoffs announced last week by President/CEO Gene Peltola. An additional 15 employees and their positions from various YKHC departments were also eliminated as a result of the Congressional mandate, known as sequester, for compliance with the Balanced Budget Act of 2012. In previous statements issued by YKHC, leadership announced a reduction in force would occur. The most visible of YKHC’s program cuts was the announcement of the elimination of YKHC’s popular summer hire program which employed high school and college students who returned to Bethel for employment during the summer break.

“Roughly half of the individuals working in the Home Care department have been offered other employment opportunities, or transfers, to other departments where their qualifications are applicable. Approximately 100 people were in consideration of the recent layoff, even though less than 3 percent of YKHC’s workforce were impacted,” said YKHC’s Director of Human Resources Carla Romero-Erlanson.

“A total of 44 vacancies (un-filled positions) were also eliminated as a result of sequester,” said Dan Winkelman, general counsel for YKHC. “YKHC leadership is committed to advocate the impact of sequester within the Alaska Tribal Health System, National Tribal Health entities, and our respected Alaska Congressional delegation to exempt future IHS funds from sequester to help cushion the blow this will have on our local and regional economy.”

Liz Lee, director of the Home Care department since 1996 stated “this is a very rough and sensitive situation for all of us, especially for our elders and the personal home care attendants who reside in our village service area. This layoff will mean that individuals who are receiving payment from YKHC for taking care of their relatives or family members in their homes will now have to identify additional resources for the services they provide, or take care of their family members in alignment with our traditional values as they normally would in taking care of our elders and family members who need that assistance. First and foremost, I am grateful to my staff and to YKHC for the years we were able to dedicate to this cause. We are all sad to see it go.” Some patients may have to be admitted into institutions as a result of the Home Care department closure. “Our goal is always to try to keep people at home for as long as possible until their health care needs necessitate otherwise,” Lee said.

Lead social worker for YKHC’s transition services, Marcia Coffey said “building and opening the new Yukon-Kuskokwim Elder’s Home and 24-hour skilled nursing facility is not the solution, but it is part of the solution.” The home care program’s elimination will impact up to 80 or 90 individuals who qualified for the service, or needed additional assistance such as helping with laundry, cleaning and/or meals in the home. The Home Care program will be closed in it’s entirety effective Oct. 25.

President Gene Peltola stated in a recent interview with radio station KYUK that “we will be eliminating Home Care in it’s entirety in our villages and in Bethel. It is a program we were losing a considerable amount of money on.” YKHC is only one of two tribal health organizations that employed people to provide home care benefits. The only other one is the Tanana Chiefs Conference health organization based out of Fairbanks.

They knew there would be cuts, but didn’t know the details until late June of this year. YKHC anticipates a total loss of $7.7 million in cuts to anticipate in FY2013 and FY2014 as well as more cuts for years to come if an IHS exemption does not occur.

“Sequester is a long term problem and these reductions and cuts will continue to be an annual process YKHC anticipates in order for us to live within our means,” said President/CEO Gene Peltola.

YKHC is the largest employer in Southwest Alaska and averages a payroll of approximately $80 million dollars per year.

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