Assembly denies funding assistance to hospital
The Petersburg Borough Assembly voted against a funding request from the Petersburg Medical Center Hospital Board.
The board requested $21,900 to repair a leaking exhaust stack in the building.
PMC CEO Liz Woodyard made the request to the assembly on behalf of the hospital board and the conversation soon turned to the relationship between PMC and the borough—a discussion that hasn’t resolved since last summer.
“We are an essential service to the community just like the police, fire and schools,” Woodyard said. “Many local communities in Alaska and throughout the rest of the nation recognize the importance of having a community hospital to ensure a vibrant community, and therefore, they do provide financial support to their hospitals.”
Assembly member John Havrilek said he worried that funding the repair would set a precedent.
“We haven’t had to pay any building repairs or building upkeep or renovations,” Havrilek said. “Are we going to start doing that now, and if we are, where are we going to get the money? Are we changing the relationship with the hospital because it seems we are. I don’t know what the answers to that are and I’m pretty uncomfortable with starting anything.”
Assembly member Jeigh Stanton Gregor echoed Havrilek’s concerns and said he lacked clarity as to the nature of the relationship.
“What I’d rather have us doing is sitting down and talking to the hospital board and Liz and find a way to clarify the nature of our financial responsibility so we know what’s expected of us so we can maintain a really good community hospital…without those boundaries or rules of the relationship set up it definitely makes me uncomfortable,” Stanton Gregor said.
Before Stanton Gregor was appointed to the assembly, the PMC Board and the assembly met during several work sessions in an attempt to clarify the relationship, but the results of those meetings were somewhat ambiguous partly because the borough owns the PMC building.
The only clear direction, according to the borough’s charter, is that the PMC Board should operate the hospital with the “greatest possible autonomy”—a directive Woodyard believes is in the best interest of both PMC and the borough.
“Up until this point, the hospital has had to repair and maintain and replace everything, and that’s why there’s many things that are not maintained or repaired,” Woodyard said. “They haven’t had the money for years and years and years and years. This is not really a new problem or a new dilemma.”
Woodyard said PMC used to pay for repairs with its line of credit—a funding source PMC doesn’t have anymore.
Assembly Member Cindi Lagoudakis asked if PMC anticipates any more requests for funding for additional projects.
Woodyard said that is up to the hospital board, and part of the reason for the current request was to re-engage the assembly in dialogue regarding future financial support.
Woodyard has also been vocal in support of a borough tobacco tax, which could be used to fund PMC capital projects.
Assembly Members Nancy Strand, Kurt Wohlhueter, Havrilek and Lagoudakis voted against funding the repair and Stanton Gregor voted in support.
In an interview held after the assembly meeting, Borough Manager Steve Giesbrecht said he advises the assembly to have more meetings with the hospital board so that there is less confusion regarding funding assistance.
“Issues like the ongoing maintenance or capital needs haven’t gone away,” Giesbrecht said. “I don’t think it’s a bad thing for the two boards to get together and have that conversation again.”