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Rural Alaska

Bethel hospital opens outpatient clinic in first phase of new facility

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Regional Hospital, center, and the Community Health Services Building, top right, are seen from the air on Thursday, August 28, 2014, in Bethel. (ERIK HILL / ADN)

BETHEL - A Southwest Alaska health care system has opened an outpatient clinic in the first phase of a new hospital launch.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. opened the clinic Monday at the tribal organization’s new regional facility in Bethel, KYUK-AM reported Tuesday.

The organization will open the facility in phases throughout the year, officials said.

Inpatient services are scheduled to open in two to three weeks, while dental and behavioral health is expected to follow in November.

The ability to add more staff was one of the reasons YKHC needed a new hospital, said Jim Sweeney, vice president of hospital services.

Having sufficient staff will enable dentists and medical staff to deliver health care beyond Bethel more often, Sweeney said.

"Our goal is really to bring the patient services as close to home as possible," Sweeney said. "So we want to serve people here in Bethel, but we also want to go out to the villages."

The facility's behavioral health unit will allow patients with critical mental health issues to be treated rather than being flown to Anchorage, said spokesman Mitchell Forbes.

"You're leaving your home, leaving your family, leaving your support system," Forbes said. "So for us being able to provide services in-region is about improving the quality of our patient care and patient experience."

YKHC plans to renovate its older hospital at the site and connect the two buildings. The corporation also plans to demolish the north wing of the old hospital and build a gathering space for patients, officials said.

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