CCMC says Tribal management could boost revenue

Meyer: State, federal restrictions have hampered hospital

Cordova Community Medical Center. (Oct. 12, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times
Cordova Community Medical Center. (Oct. 12, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Putting Cordova Community Medical Center under the management of Native Village of Eyak could alleviate CCMC’s financial problems, officials have said.

State and federal regulations limit the number of nursing home beds CCMC can operate, impacting revenue, said Greg Meyer, chair of the CCMC Board of Directors. CCMC relies on these beds for 40 percent of its revenue, he said.

For the past decade, the Cordova City Council has provided roughly $900,000 per year to CCMC. This financial burden has become a source of frustration for the council, Meyer said. However, freed of certain federal and state restrictions, the hospital could cover all its costs without laying off staff or reducing services, he said.

“If you look at any hospital in Alaska in these small communities, we’re operating at about the same budget and with the same deficits,” Meyer said. “It’s just the way the state has hampered these facilities… I thought it was a lot more complicated when I got on, but it seems to be simply that.”

NVE is investigating possible arrangements that would allow it to undertake management of CCMC, said NVE Executive Director Bert Adams. However, NVE is unlikely to come to a decision until mid-2020 or later. If NVE does offer to assume management of CCMC, Meyer would still have to have the proposed arrangement approved by the city council.

The latest step in the assessment process is an engineering inspection of the CCMC building, commenced this week, to confirm that the facility is up to code. Although it’s possible NVE would build new health care facilities as part of a deal with CCMC, doing so could cost $15-20 million, Adams said.

At this point, little has been made official. A deal could result in the sale of CCMC to NVE, a partnership between the two or some other arrangement altogether, Meyer said. Both Meyer and Adams denied characterizations of the negotiations as a takeover of CCMC by NVE.

As a federally recognized tribe, NVE can operate, in some regards, as a sovereign nation. Consequently, an NVE-managed hospital would not be bound by the bed limits presently imposed on CCMC by state and federal agencies.

NVE receives health care funding from the Indian Health Service, a federal agency. However, the IHS does not oversee the management of NVE health care facilities.

Even if NVE does not ultimately assume management of CCMC, the negotiations have brought other benefits, Adams said.

“The positive thing about going through this approach is that it’s bringing both the city of Cordova and the Native Village of Eyak together, to work together and provide the best health care,” Adams said. “This is a good example of how the two should be working together, not just on health care, but on everything that impacts this community. It’s better for the community that we’re working together than being apart and heading down the wrong roads.”