City and tribal medical centers in talks to merge

CCMC hopes to minimize possible layoffs

Cordova Community Medical Center. (Sept. 13, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times
Cordova Community Medical Center. (Sept. 13, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Cordova’s tribal and city-run medical centers are in preliminary talks to combine into a single organization.

Cordova Community Medical Center has approached Native Village of Eyak about merging with NVE’s Ilanka Community Health Center, said CCMC Chairman Greg Meyer at a Friday, Sept. 13 meeting. However, NVE must gain a better understanding of CCMC’s financial position before making a definite commitment, said NVE Tribal Council chairman Darrel Olsen.

Establishing these facts at a public meeting was necessary to “calm the rumor mill,” Meyer said. Gossip of imminent layoffs has left CCMC nurses feeling apprehensive, said Kelly Kedzierski, hospital director of nursing.

“I don’t think change is bad, but I think not being in the know, and it being almost hush-hush … is scary for everybody,” Kedzierski said. “Like I always say, if you break your toe, the next thing you know, I hear that you’re in a full body cast.”

Meyer has prioritized minimizing possible layoffs in his talks with NVE, he said.

In past years, CCMC has struggled to cut costs and increase revenues. At the same time, the Ilanka Community Health Center has offered some services redundant to those offered by CCMC. Consolidating the two medical centers could provide a solution, Meyer said.

“Cordova can’t afford two healthcare facilities,” CCMC board member Gary Graham said. “There aren’t enough people. There’s not enough dollars available out there to support two separate entities, that I can see.”

Asked whether the two medical centers would consolidate as equal partners, or whether it would amount to a takeover of CCMC by Native Village of Eyak, Meyer said that he did not know.

CCMC’s current difficulties have resulted from a lack of transparency, said Barb Jewell, behavioral health program manager for CCMC’s Sound Alternatives clinic. Any attempt to solve CCMC’s financial problems must be part of a broader mission to deliver high-quality healthcare to residents, she said.

“No matter what happens – whether we merge, whether we collaborate, whether they take over, what we need to focus on is serving our community,” Kedzierski said.