Staying ahead of changes in health care

  • Saturday, October 29, 2016 6:58pm
  • Opinion

When it comes to providing health care for Kenai Peninsula Borough residents, the times are changing, and recommendations from the borough’s task force on the topic would appear to prepare the borough for what comes next — even though the future remains unclear.

“We’re preparing something for a future that we can’t even envision what’s going to be happening,” said task force chair Rick Ross, according to Clarion reporting. “… We’re not making a recommendation for some immediate change.”

Indeed, the task force’s recommendations are geared more toward making borough government more flexible when it comes to administering to health care issues in the future.

Health care delivery continues to evolve at a rapid pace — consider how different Central Peninsula Hospital looks now compared to just 10 years ago, and how many services are available on the central peninsula — both at the hospital and at other medical facilities in the area — that used to require a trip to Anchorage or Seattle.

Despite that growth, there remains a number of gaps across the peninsula, including six identified by the task force.

The task force listed three of those as priorities in its recommendations: service area structure issues, the emergency medical service response issue and the need for a community substance abuse and mental health facility in the central peninsula.

Addressing service area structure and EMS response issues certainly would give the borough greater flexibility to implement changes in the future; currently, service area borders throw up barriers to some initiatives, such as a the health care provider network being spearheaded by the hospital.

And a substance abuse and mental health facility would address an ever-growing issue here on the peninsula.

The task force recommendations will be presented to the borough administration for review. From there, it will be up to the administration, borough assembly and perhaps the Kenai Peninsula’s voters to implement any changes.

While it may be unclear exactly which changes should be implemented, what is clear from the task force recommendations is that changes are going to be needed. With its task force report, the borough is in a position to make changes on its own terms, rather than having changes dictated to us.

We think that’s a good position to be in, and we hope the borough administration and assembly will continue to be proactive when it comes to looking out for the health of borough residents.

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