Medical director says “it’s business as usual” at NSHC

Exterior of Nome hospital in winter time.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services on Oct. 2 activated crisis standards of care for 20 of the state’s 31 health care facilities, including Norton Sound Health Corporation. That doesn’t mean anything is changing at Norton Sound Regional Hospital, according to NSHC Medical Director Dr. Mark Peterson.

“For Norton Sound, for our region, we’re not changing the way that we’re functioning right now, because we don’t need to. We’re not in a crisis situation, like some of the other facilities,” Peterson said.

The hospital is not facing supply or staffing problems, and residents can expect the same level of care as usual.

“There’s nothing that we need to do differently. We have beds available, we have ventilators available, we have staff available right now. It’s business as usual for us right now,” Peterson said.

NSHC didn’t request crisis standards of care as an individual institution, Peterson explained. NSHC did want to be included in a large-scale activation of crisis standards of care, which is just what DHSS did on Oct. 2.

The activation of crisis standards of care doesn’t affect village clinics in any way, Peterson said. He encouraged those who have questions about the COVID-19 pandemic to join the NSHC tribal health calls every Monday and Wednesday. The calls begin at 11 a.m. and provide a chance for community members to converse directly with doctors about health issues. Anyone can join by calling 1-800-315-6338 and using the access code 03286#. 

As of Oct. 8, there are 90 active cases of COVID-19 in the Norton Sound and Bering Strait region: 45 in Nome, 35 in Brevig Mission, eight in Koyuk, one in Gambell and one in Shaktoolik. NSHC continues to report no deaths related to COVID-19.

Image at top: Exterior of Norton Sound Regional Hospital. Photo by Brisa Alarcon, KNOM.