March 7 vote includes CCMC board candidates

Election Forum Part one: Q&A with the Cordova Community Medical Center Hospital Authority Board Candidates

Cordova Community Medical Center.

Community leadership on the Cordova Community Medical Center’s Hospital Authority Board, the Cordova City Council and the Cordova School Board will be decided during the municipal election March 7.

The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Cordova Center’s Community Room A.

To better inform voters about the candidates’ views, the Cordova Times is offering a candidate forum for the Hospital Authority Board in this issue, followed by a second candidate forum in the March 3 issue for the Cordova City Council and Cordova School Board.

Cordova Community Medical Center Hospital Authority Board candidates are  Sally Bennett, Dorne Hawxhurst, John Harvill, April Horton and Kristin Carpenter.

They answered eight key questions regarding their views on the community, substance abuse issues, the hospital budget, and what they consider to be management priorities should they be elected to serve on the board.

The March 3, edition will feature part two of The Cordova Times’ 2017 Candidate Forums, highlighting candidates running for the Cordova City Council and one candidate running for the Cordova School Board.

Sally Bennett

How long have you resided in Cordova?

My family moved to Cordova in November 2014.

Why do you consider yourself to be the best candidate for the job?

I am a critical thinker who likes to find creative solutions to problems. As a former middle school teacher and current mother of three, creative problem solving is a skill I use every day. I would like to apply my unique skill set to tackling the many challenges the hospital faces.

What would be your top priority as a hospital authority board member?

My top priority would be to make the hospital the first choice for medical care for the residents of Cordova. I saw firsthand how well trained and caring the hospital staff is, when I delivered my daughter there last August. I would like to do what I can to make the hospital the place people want to go to receive their routine care, instead of heading to another clinic.

How would you engage the community to deal with substance abuse issues?

I think it is very important to engage children in the discussion of substance abuse so that the cycle is not repeated. If we can get the critical information to children before they are exposed to alcohol and tobacco, they will hopefully be able to make healthy choices that will allow them to avoid becoming addicted.

What steps need to be taken to balance the Cordova Community Medical Center’s budget?

Having not seen the budget of the Cordova Community Medical Center, I cannot speak to specifics on what needs to be done. I can say that I think a balanced budget is very important to a having a facility that is successful. I think both looking at what cuts can be made and perhaps ways to generate new revenue will need to be explored to get the budget under control.

What types of programs do you support in Cordova?

I support a range of programs in Cordova. I think it is important that we have mental health services available here in town, as well as many programs that engage youth. I think it is important to have programs in town to keep people active and encourage them to be life-long learners.

What would you do to make Cordova safer?

The hospital’s focus should be providing the best medical care possible. While a focus on preventative care might help, I believe the safety of Cordova is best left to the residents themselves and the police department.

What inspired you to declare your candidacy for a Hospital Authority Board seat?

My youngest child, Dorothy, was born at the Cordova Community Medical Center. My older two children were born in Anchorage at a birth center, so this was my first experience in a hospital. I was surprised at how great an experience it was. I could not have asked for better care. Not only was I cared for, but my entire family was looked after. That lead me to want to help the hospital if possible, and I think this is a way my skills can be used.

Dorne Hawxhurst

How long have you resided in Cordova?

From 1990 to 1996, and again from 2014 to the present.

Why do you consider yourself to be the best candidate for the job?

I have direct professional experience as a health care analyst with a large international accounting firm, and as a health care advocate for employees of the Alaska Court System and their dependents.

What would be your top priority as a hospital authority board member?

To promote high quality, safe, efficient, and affordable health care delivery for all members of our community; to promote opportunities for telemedicine, assisted living, etc., to fill service gaps; to identify opportunities for partnering with entities in and outside of Cordova; to avoid duplication of healthcare efforts within the community where feasible and mutually agreeable; to support current staff; to promote local hire; to restore confidence in our local health system; to emphasize performance management and accountability; and to encourage an environment of continuous improvement.

How would you engage the community to deal with substance abuse issues?

I will work with the board, Sound Alternatives, the Native Village of Eyak, local schools, and any other interested individuals and organizations to promote programs and services that prevent or reduce the risk of developing substance abuse problems. I will also work to promote the availability of effective substance abuse treatment programs.

What steps need to be taken to balance the Cordova Community Medical Center’s budget?

I will review draft budgets, evaluate financial performance and trends, and together with the board, make tough decisions as needed to balance the budget. I generally prefer to reduce costs through attrition than through layoffs.

What types of programs do you support in Cordova?

I support all financially feasible programs that improve the quality of life and health for Cordovans.

What would you do to make Cordova safer?

Identify affordable resources and tools to help deliver timely and competent medical and mental healthcare; improve continuity of care where possible; and improve quality performance across the board.

What inspired you to declare your candidacy for a Hospital Authority Board seat?

I love Cordova and wish to apply my knowledge of healthcare in general and hospital operations in particular, to the benefit of all Cordovans.

John Harvill

How long have you resided in Cordova?

My wife, Barbara, and I have lived in Cordova for over 15 years.

Why do you consider yourself the best candidate for the job?

I have a very supportive wife, am retired, and have extensive management skills. I have the time, legal, financial and management background to devote to the Cordova Hospital Authority Board. I have seen the effect of high turnover at the hospital and can use my past business experience to make the CCMC medical center a place that the employees and town can be proud of.  I have supported the hospital by encouraging doctors and nurses to become full time hospital employees and Cordova residents, which is critical for complete quality care at CCMC.

What would be your top priority as a hospital authority board member?

The top priority for everyone involved with the hospital should always be quality care for all patients. To have the best quality of care we must have the best possible staff from top to bottom and supply them with the best equipment to meet their requirements.

How would you engage the community to deal with substance abuse issues?

There are two areas of substance abuse, legal and illegal. Illegal substance abuse starts with the home environment and the community. To try to pretend that increasing services for addicts will alleviate this problem is naïve, and would be a large waste of financial resources. The medical center can and should support addicts getting into treatment, but the town, and parents in particular, need to take responsibility for correcting the problem.

Legal substance abuse has been an ongoing problem here in Cordova because of temporary staff at our hospitals. When abusers ask for and demand unnecessary drugs and the temporary doctors have no files or personal knowledge about the individuals they are more likely to prescribe these harmful drugs.

What steps need to be taken to balance the CCMC’s budget?

To balance the CCMC budget, we must do all possible to give the HIGHEST quality of care. That will encourage more local support of the hospital, which will increase the income. In addition to increasing income, the CCMC management and staff must do all possible to cut costs, while maintaining that quality of care that the community will learn to expect.

What types of programs do you support in Cordova?

I support all programs that would minimize the need for residents to visit out of town hospitals for services, including but not limited to prenatal care with deliveries, chemotherapy, other infusions, and any other skills and equipment that would minimize or eliminate the need to medivac patients to Anchorage hospitals. Many of the current medivac cases could be avoided with additional training of our full-time staff and some diagnosis equipment.

In addition, I support community outreach programs like the “Doc Talk” that Dr. Blackadar has been doing. I will encourage CCMC doctors and nurses to give seminars at the high school to inform students about good health, personal medical issues, and sports related injuries.

What would you do to make Cordova safer?

A major concern of all Cordovans that could easily be corrected is the lack of sharing of medical records between our two local clinics. If a non-CCMC patient arrives at the CCMC emergency room during off hours and they have no file, the CCMC staff has no idea or records on that patient’s condition or current medications. That should be the NUMBER ONE concern of this community to make Cordova safer.

Cordovans should support, encourage community seminars on common health problems like stroke or heart attacks, while supporting our volunteer fire and ambulance staff to improve response times and training for emergency treatment while patients are being transported to the hospital.

What inspired you to declare your candidacy for a Hospital Authority Board seat?

A good hospital is important for an isolated community like Cordova. I’ve always been a supporter of CCMC. For the past 15 years, I have attempted to portray Cordova in a beneficial light to doctors applying for jobs at CCMC.

I support the new administrator, Scot Mitchel, in hiring full time doctors and nurses for CCMC. The hospital now has two full time doctors, one male, and one female, and three full time nurses, as well as a dedicated radiology technician. These people live in Cordova, and give our patients 100-percent of their dedication. They bring continuing medical help for our residents and greatly improve the medical care. I want to continue these activities to further support CCMC.

April Horton

How long have you resided in Cordova? 

Six years.

Why do you consider yourself to be the best candidate for the job?

I have seven years of knowledge and work experience in a hospital facility, from admitting, to the emergency room, to the operating room. I have experience in working with the public one-on-one, along with insurance billing, chart auditing, terminology. I love working closely with doctors and nurses  and working as a team player.

At that hospital, I worked in a system that marries up with the doctors’ offices and other departments within the hospital. I have expertise in designing a scheduling program for the operating room. I’m a business owner in the town of Cordova for the past six years, and have built relationships with the people of Cordova. I would be a good advocate of the people and their concerns.

What would be your top priority as a hospital authority board member?

To make sure that we are giving the best care possible to the people and to make sure the hospital stays on task and within budget. I feel that in the past, it has fallen short with the care and communication to the people of this town with an overextended budget. With better communication and a team work-effort, we can better CCMC.

How would you engage the community to deal with substance abuse issues? 

This issue holds dear to my heart being a parent of a child with substance abuse. I would love to work with the board and CCMC to see if we can get more education to all on a continual basis to help with awareness, triggers and how to deal with those when they do arise and who to contact.

What steps need to be taken to balance the Cordova Community Medical Center’s budget? 

With respect to the balance of the budget, I look forward to delivering my input when budget issues arise, and will gladly give my time in serving the board. I have much experience and general knowledge on how to save money, and what programs make more sense in our hospital. I have seen many areas that need revamping and cutbacks without jeopardizing health care in general, or to our community members.

What types of programs do you support in Cordova? 

ALL programs here in Cordova and we could add a few more.

What would you do to make Cordova safer? 

I feel better communication and awareness to the community to provide information for services such as Guardian Flight, Al-Anon, Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Mammogram Mobile, the health fair, and flu shot awareness. These will be key components as I serve on the board, to help better these programs and possibly add new ones.

What inspired you to declare your candidacy for a Hospital Authority Board seat? 

Living in the town of Cordova, I have gotten to know the people that keep this town running and have built friendships along the way. I am a business owner in this town and do have the one-on-one time to talk with the people and hear their concerns. I feel with my knowledge and love of helping people, and to help find solutions to better this community, is what inspired me to want to run for the hospital board.

Kristin Carpenter

How long have you resided in Cordova?  

Twenty-three years.

Why do you consider yourself to be the best candidate for the job?  

I am committed to ensuring that our medical center is a viable institution. People make decisions on where to live by looking at the quality of a community’s schools and medical care, and I believe the quality of CCMC’s medical services is an important element of Cordova’s future.

What would be your top priority as a hospital authority board member?

Achieving financial stability for the CCMC is the most critical issue. This touches on a lot of items, though, from updating the building and its equipment and furnishings, to finding the right mix of in-house staff vs. contracting for certain services and making sure we have the right balance of medical service providers for our small and seasonal community.

How would you engage the community to deal with substance abuse issues?

Good work is always being done at our Sound Alternatives Mental Health Clinic (SA). I would be interested in looking in to how partnerships can be strengthened between SA and the Cordova Family Resource Center, the Ilanka Clinic, the public health nurse, the school district, and the Cordova Police Department, for the broadest possible reach of public education messages and services.

What steps need to be taken to balance the Cordova Community Medical Center’s budget?

So many factors contribute to financial viability for the CCMC – our seasonal economy, the stability of CCMC’s nursing and physician staff, and keeping administrator turnover to a minimum. We have great stability now with two top-notch physicians, including an outstanding female doctor, and a very capable administrator. Developing sources of revenue is always a goal, and I anticipate that with a newly elected board, we’ll be doing some strategic planning with the administrator to put a long-term plan in place for identifying as many revenue sources as possible and maximizing our community-specific assets.

What types of programs do you support in Cordova?

This is hard to answer without the benefit of doing some strategic planning with a full board and administrator, but in the past, we have benefited from specialty clinics for orthopedic services, and I’m interested in looking into whether we can effectively offer services or form partnerships for alternative healing.

What would you do to make Cordova safer?

With regards to providing medical care, it’s important for CCMC to have the resources to ensure that its nursing and physician staff have the most current training. In combatting substance abuse, we should have the heroin antidote on hand, and we should be as active as possible in providing counseling and public education on addiction.

What inspired you to declare your candidacy for a Hospital Authority Board seat?

Rural hospitals all over the country are closing at an alarming rate, and I  believe it’s critical that we do what we can to keep CCMC open as a source of medical care for our seniors, for our community members, and as a source of employment.

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Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson is a staff writer and photographer for The Cordova Times. She has been writing in one form or another for 30-plus years and has had a longstanding relationship with The Cordova Times starting in 1989. She's been an Alaskan since 1976 and first moved to Cordova in 1978. She's lived in various West Texas towns; in Denver, Colorado; in McGrath, Cordova, Galena, Kodiak, Wasilla, Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska and in Bangalore, India. She has two children and three grandchildren. She can be reached at cgibbens-stimson@thecordovatimes.com or follow her on Instagram @alaskatoindia.