Sitka Health Care Town Hall
July 7, 2017
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Photos by Christine Davenport and James Poulson/Daily Sitka Sentinel
SITKA, AK-- A group of citizens on the island community in rural Alaska held a town hall meeting on Friday July 7th, to discuss the the Senate Health Care Bill and its impact on Alaskan communities. Over 80 people attended the gathering at the local clan house/community event space, Sheet'ká Ḵwáan Naa Kahídi. Attendees included health care providers from Sitka Community Hospital and the Alaska Native tribal health consortium (SEARHC), elders, non-profit directors, teachers, fishermen, and small business owners. Neither Senator Murkowski nor Senator Sullivan attended, but both sent statements that were read aloud.
After an introduction from the local Affordable Care Act (ACA) enrollment coordinator about the benefits and challenges of the ACA and what would change with the new proposed Senate bill, citizens stood up and shared their experiences and concerns with health care and insurance coverage in Sitka. This included comment from Sitka Community Hospital CEO Rob Allen on the positive impact of the ACA and Medicaid expansion, and testimony from Dr. Hunter who shared how the ACA had allowed many Sitkans to receive treatment for substance abuse: “We need more help, not less help,” he said.
Another doctor shared that because Sitka is a blue-collar, rural community, he often provides care for patients who can’t pay for it: “We are a small community and we need each other,” he said.
State Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins talked about the state government’s role in expanding coverage and how many of his rural constituents depend on the ACA.
After the town hall, Sitkans gathered to record video messages to send to Senators Murkowski and Sullivan, and half of the attendees wrote postcards to the senators voicing their concerns.