Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Hospital to expand surgery services

Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly members approved the hospital’s purchase of the Surgery Center of Kenai

Kenai Peninsula residents could soon face shorter waiting times for some surgeries following the purchase of more operating rooms by Central Peninsula Hospital last week. Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly members approved at their July 5 meeting the hospital’s purchase of the Surgery Center of Kenai.

The agreement comes about seven months after the hospital reached out to the surgery center about acquiring the facility due to its existing operating rooms being near capacity and State of Alaska limitations on the ability of the hospital to expand.

Central Peninsula Hospital CEO Shaun Keef said Tuesday that the hospital’s Certificate of Need dictates how much of certain technology the hospital is allowed to have. Keef said the certificate uses a formula to determine the needs of a hospital’s service area, such as the number of MRI or CT machines needed.

It’s that certificate of need that limits the number of operating rooms the hospital is allowed to have: four. Keef said surgeons reserve blocks of time during which they need to use the operating rooms, and that lately there’s been more demand for operating room time than the hospital can provide. That manifests as longer wait times for patients, Keef said, with some surgeries currently being booked out months in advance.

Through the purchase of the Surgery Center of Kenai, Keef said Central Peninsula Hospital will now have access to two more operating rooms that the hospital can use for outpatient surgeries. Surgeries that require a patient to be admitted will still occur at the hospital in Soldotna.

“This acquisition gives us the opportunity to gain additional (operating rooms) which we would not otherwise be able to have access to,” Keef said.

In all, the hospital will buy the surgery center for about $9.77 million, which includes about $650,000 of existing debt payments. The land on which the center sits is owned by the City of Kenai.

The Executive Committee of the Surgery Center of Kenai voiced their support for the purchase in a June 14 letter to assembly members, saying the exchange will increase the availability and kinds of surgeries that can be performed on the central peninsula. Central Peninsula Hospital assured the center during negotiations that the center facility will stay in the City of Kenai, the committee wrote.

“From our perspective the sale of the Surgery Center of Kenai to Central Peninsula Hospital significantly increases the availability of local and non-local specialties and procedures in the surgery center to the local community and will continue to deliver the high quality, efficient cost-effective care this community expects and deserves,” the committee wrote.

Keef echoed that sentiment Tuesday and said the new center will allow people to undergo procedures locally for which they may have otherwise needed to travel to Anchorage or other areas.

“It’s really a way we can better accommodate the needs of our community and keep people local,” Keef said.

In the meantime, Keef said the hospital is working with the surgery center to ensure a smooth transition. He said they hope to take over service as soon as possible now that the purchase has been approved.

“It’s really a positive thing for our community,” Keef said.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly’s full July 5 meeting can be streamed on the borough’s website at kpb.us.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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