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0106 HR Magazine: HR, Alaska Style

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HR Magazine, January 2006
Vol. 51, No. 1

Hospital or Engineering Firm?

The Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC) hospital and its tertiary and specialty medical services account for nearly three-quarters of the total workforce of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC)-more than 1,200 employees out of a total staff of 1,700. But the ANTHC also manages a wide variety of interrelated services concentrated in four additional core business operations, all of which are necessary to meet the challenge of improving the health of Alaska Natives.

  • The environmental health and engineering division plans, designs and builds sanitation facilities to bring water and sewage treatment services to bush villages that have no running water or indoor plumbing. Many villagers still use "honeybuckets," a kind of portable toilet made of a can and a trash bag. The ANTHC's goal, says Sonya Conant, senior director of human resources, is to put "the last honeybucket in the Smithsonian."
  • The consortium provides a variety of community health services including research, health promotion and disease prevention. It also provides training for village-based community health aides and dental aides. (The rate of dental caries among Alaska Natives is 2.5 times the national rate.)
  • The information technology division installs and supports electronic medical records systems and telemedicine workstations that make it possible for village health aides to consult electronically with doctors in regional hospitals or with specialists at the ANMC, which is co-managed by the consortium and the Southcentral Foundation.
  • The HR division is responsible for all consortium HR services as well as for providing recruiting help to its partner tribal health organizations throughout the state.
The senior leadership has a joke about this complex organization, says Conant. "Is it a hospital with an environmental health and engineering division," they ask, "or is it an engineering firm that owns a hospital?"
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