Alaska Regional makes third bid for freestanding ER in South Anchorage

Alaska Regional Hospital officials are mounting a third attempt to build a stand-alone emergency department in South Anchorage.

State officials last year rejected the hospital’s request for the certificate needed to build a 12-bed, $17.6 million freestanding ER facility. In 2015, state officials also denied an Alaska Regional proposal to build stand-alone emergency departments in South Anchorage and Eagle River.

The freestanding ER concept has long raised concerns nationally, including over costs and the lack of a connected hospital to treat patients with severe cardiac issues or needing surgery or intensive care.

Alaska Regional this week announced the hospital is proposing a scaled-down facility with five beds and diagnostic, imaging and lab services located at Huffman Road and the Old Seward Highway.

Hospital leaders say the project is intended to add emergency care in South Anchorage, where there are no major hospitals, but also relieve the pressure on the city’s three hospitals overall.

About 20% of the people showing up at the city’s emergency departments come from South Anchorage, according to Hank Grinold, vice president of operations at Alaska Regional. Regional saw about 29,000 patients in the ER in 2020 and roughly 40,000 last year, Grinold said in an interview Wednesday.

It can be “challenging” seeing that many patients in the hospital’s 16-bed emergency department, he said.


Grinold said the facility could also relieve pressure on other hospitals by reducing the need to temporarily shift to “divert” status when various factors can halt ambulance transports until capacity improves.

Alaska Regional Hospital, part of the for-profit HCA Healthcare Inc. chain of 182 hospitals in 20 states and the United Kingdom, is one of three large hospitals in Anchorage, along with the Alaska Native Medical Center and Providence Alaska Medical Center. Alaska Regional is owned by Galen Hospital Alaska Inc., an indirect subsidiary of HCA Healthcare.

Regional has applied for a Certificate of Need, a process state officials use to determine whether patient demand justifies the expansion of existing facilities or construction of new ones.

State officials this week said Alaska Regional’s new Certificate of Need application is undergoing a 30-day review and is not yet a publicly available document.

State health officials denied Regional’s application for a certificate last year, faulting the hospital’s data and methodology. Some emergency physicians also objected to the freestanding ER, saying it could drive up costs and delay care.

The new proposed facility is smaller due to different calculations that did not include ANMC or the hospital on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, one of the issues raised in the state’s denial last year, Grinold said. The hospital would cover any ambulance transport from the stand-alone ER to the main facility, he said.

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