Contracted health care workers meant to help relieve the strain on the state’s overwhelmed hospitals started arriving in Alaska this week.
The nearly $87 million contract between the state of Alaska and DLH Solutions Inc. is supposed to bring almost 500 workers over the next 10 days to Alaska and can be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The workers will initially fill immediate needs in places with the most intensive care unit beds, like Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, this week.
After that, other workers will fan out to outlying facilities in other parts of the state, according to Heidi Hedberg, director of the state’s Division of Public Health.
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The roughly 100 workers who arrived Monday were going through paperwork and an orientation that included videos from the state’s epidemiologist and chief medical officer, as well as from the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, so workers could begin to familiarize themselves with Alaska’s unique health care system.
They were set to start work the next day, Hedberg said.
According to the contract, DLH is providing transportation, housing and other services for the workers. A representative for the contractor, DLH, directed all communications to the state of Alaska.
Facilities and schools in Dillingham, Seward, Juneau, Bethel, Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks, Palmer, Sitka, Kodiak, Valdez, Homer, Utqiagvik and Wrangell will all receive workers over the next 10 days, Hedberg said.
“This contract was never intended to fill all the vacancies, though it’s only intended to meet the immediate needs, that the hospitals are facing,” Hedberg said.
Hedberg said the state was using a contractor instead of the Alaska National Guard to fill in because many of the Guard’s health care workers are already working in the state’s hospitals.
About 80% of the Alaska Native Medical Center’s request for staff had been filled Tuesday, Hedberg said.
ANMC was processing some of those workers by Tuesday afternoon, according to hospital spokesperson Shirley Young.
A group of workers for Alaska Regional Hospital was waiting on their Alaska licensure on Tuesday, according to hospital spokesperson Kjerstin Lastufka.
Additional staff, including three of five respiratory therapists that were requested, started work at Providence Alaska Medical Center on Tuesday morning as well, Hedberg said. And around half of Mat-Su Regional Hospital’s request for staff had been fulfilled Tuesday, she said.
“They’re all starting to flow in, they’re all starting to be matched,” Hedberg said.