Juneau’s hospital to receive $4M in federal dollars to improve emergency department

Bartlett Regional Hospital on March 26, 2024. (Clarise Larson/KTOO)

Congress recently passed a $1.2 trillion spending bill that the president signed into law last weekend. Buried inside it was $4 million for improvements to the emergency department at Juneau’s Bartlett Regional Hospital.

Nathan Rumsey, the hospital’s executive director of business development and strategy, announced the news to the hospital board during a meeting Tuesday night. 

“The primary objectives of the project are to improve patient access, to improve patient and staff safety and security, create more efficient and flexible space for ED operations, and to address emergency medicine best practices in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

Rumsey said the project will expand and renovate the south side of the emergency department and include ventilation and electrical upgrades.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, requested the funding through a process that used to be known as earmarking. It’s now called “congressionally directed spending.” Juneau’s hospital upgrades are just one project out of 72 in Alaska that received a total of almost $86 million from the spending bill.

In a written press release, Murkowski said one of Alaska’s biggest challenges is “combating the mental health crisis.”

Rumsey said this funding will help the hospital do just that and more. 

“This will give us the flexibility to have more space available and set aside for behavioral health patients in the [emergency department] specifically,” he said.

The hospital has been trying to gather the funds for the estimated $10.5 million expansion since 2021. Rumsey said the hospital originally asked Murkowski for $15 million, but has since changed the scope of the design to cost less. 

The hospital still needs to gather enough funding to cover the project’s full cost. Rumsey said the hospital has already set aside about $3 million in bond funds, and it’s seeking other grants to cover the rest. He said that process will determine the project’s timeline.

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