New AICS Clinic open to public, prepared for clients


Greg Knight

The new Alaska Island Community Services clinic opened this week on Wood Street, adjacent to the location of the planned Wrangell Medical Center renovation project.

After more than a year of planning, design and construction, the brand new Alaska Island Community Services clinic held an open house to show off the multi-million dollar building, its technological innovations and ways its new floor plan would assist clients in the medical and counseling process.

The new facility, located on Wood Street, opened on June 5 and has nearly doubled the number of examination rooms available to patients. It cost nearly $4 million to build and is now prepared to offer a community room for educational purposes as well as features two nursing stations for clients who need follow-up appointments after seeing their doctors or counselors.

Two physicians working for AICS, Medical Mirector Greg Salard, and Dr. Lynn Prysunka, said the new building would bring more space for them to work with, provide technological improvements, and increase productivity and confidentiality for the patient experience.

“It’s a lot bigger and we have a lot more to work with, especially with our examination rooms,” Salard said. “Things should go smoother and quicker, and hopefully there is a lot less patient waiting time or down time. The hospital will also have lab personnel over here at least part of the time during high flow because certain lab tests have to be done within a certain time frame.”

Salard said that the former facility, Tideline Clinic, won’t be abandoned at all, but would continue to serve the hospital and patients needing urgent care.

“There are several things we have done to alleviate the problem of us and the hospital being in different locations for now,” he added. “One of those is that we’ll have the lab tech here and also have a doctor over at the old clinic facility as well most days. The doctor there will cover the emergency room and we’ll see a few patients who are mostly walk-ins, short-termers and emergency room patients there.”

One advantage of the new facility is the bonus of technology – and Salard was quick to point out the new desks he and his colleagues will be able to work with.

“Besides being bigger and having more light to work with because of our large windows, we have these neat desks that go up and down,” he added. “You can use them either sitting down or standing up depending on what you are doing for or with your patients. Unfortunately, my desk broke today. That’s what I get for letting my two little girls play with things that have buttons on them.”

Dr. Prysunka is also excited about the opportunity to work in the new building and was effusive about what she considers its strong trend toward patient flow, work aesthetics and privacy issues.

“We have been knee-deep in the facility we’re currently in now, and we’ve been sharing extremely tiny exam rooms between the physicians,” Prysunka said. “It’s been a nice environment where we have worked close together, but we have been under each other’s feet for a long time. Now, we’ve got room to move and can make patients more comfortable. We’ve got facilities to do procedures if we have to, we can monitor people for longer now too without tying up exam rooms. That helps the flow of patients coming through.”

Arriving at the new clinic will be a new experience for clients as well, Prysunka said.

“The new front office area is great too because of the way it handles all of the behind-the-scenes things that go on here,” she said. “There, we can get billing, scheduling and referrals done and we’re all working in one, but it is spread out enough that no one is tripping over each other. Plus, it allows staff to do things without anyone else listening. So, if are discussing financial information or other private information, there is a window you can come where you are not part of the waiting room.”

AICS’ new electronic records system will flow seamlessly from the old facility to the new one, according to Prysunka, and doctors can now access the system from whatever room they are in with greater ease.

“We will still use the same medical records program that we are already using, but now we have the ability to use it without transferring a computer from room to room,” she added. “The main difference is that there will a computer and a printer in each room. The only thing we are giving up here is our proximity to the hospital, which is a shame.”

Greg Knight

A number of AICS employees took part in an open house last week to celebrate the clinic’s opening. From left: Dr. Greg Salard, Valerie Jensen, Carly Allen, Dr. Lynn Prysunka and Kara Helgeson.

Though Prysunka laments the distance to the hospital, city leaders are getting back into talks with the USDA and team members of the Wrangell Medical Center renovation group to work on bringing a new hospital to land just east of the new clinic.

“That’s why we really want the new facility to be built nearby,” she said.

Another physician, Dr. Laura Dooley, is affiliated with Bartlett Regional Medical Center and SEARHC and will be seeing patients at the new facility.

The clinic had originally been slated to open in late 2012, but that date was delayed for a number of reasons.

AICS director Steve Helgeson said in an interview earlier this year that the project was slightly delayed by supply issues.

“It was originally announced that we were going to be open earlier, but there are a lot of factors here because big jobs take longer and that’s just the nature of things,” Helgeson said. “There were some material supply issues with respect to the contractor. That had an effect on the timing of construction.”


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