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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska

October 12, 2019

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Ketchikan: Ketchikan Medical Center to Notify Patients of Refund Resulting From Temporary Lapse of Physician Medical License – PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center announced Friday they are in the process of notifying patients who saw a part-time hospital-based internal medicine physician, currently licensed in Alaska and Oregon, regarding an administrative error that caused the physician’s Alaskan medical license to temporarily lapse from December 31, 2018 to March 14, 2019.

PeaceHealth has determined that no quality or safety irregularities were identified as a result of the physician’s patient care. The physician's name was not released.

“We are confident that this inadvertent administrative error did not compromise patient care,” said Ed Freysinger, PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center Chief Administrative Officer.

Freysinger said, “We are notifying patients who saw this particular physician during this period to let them know they are eligible for a refund for any portion of a bill they were personally responsible for that was associated with the physician’s care at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center or New Horizons Long Term Care Facility.”

When PeaceHealth personnel became aware of the situation, they notified the Alaska Medical Board and the provider’s license was promptly reinstated. Although no longer employed by PeaceHealth, the physician’s Oregon medical license has been and remains active. - More...
Saturday PM - October 12, 2019

Fish Factor: Board of Fisheries' Annual Meeting: Rules and Changing Climate on Agenda By LAINE WELCH -  Hundreds of fishery stakeholders and scientists will gather in Anchorage next week as the state Board of Fisheries (BOF) begins its annual meeting cycle with a two-day work session. 

The seven-member BOF sets the rules for the state’s subsistence, commercial, sport and personal use fisheries. It meets four to six times each year in various communities on a three-year rotation; this year the focus is on Kodiak and Cook Inlet. 

The fish board and the public also will learn the latest on how a changing climate and off kilter ocean chemistry are affecting some of Alaska’s most popular seafood items at an October 23 “talk and Q&A” on ocean acidification (OA) in Alaska. 

And they undoubtedly will be astounded to learn that despite salmon being Alaska’s most iconic fish, only two studies have looked at salmon response to OA, and both were conducted outside of Alaska. 

Most of the research to date has focused specifically on crab and fish stocks, said Bob Foy, director of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center at the NOAA Auke Bay lab in Juneau who will lead the Anchorage presentation.

Ocean acidification is caused when carbon dioxide gas from the atmosphere dissolves in the ocean, lowering the water’s pH level and making it more acidic. The imbalance prevents marine creatures from forming shells and skeletons, among other things. 

“We've found effects on Tanner crab and red king crab in the laboratory. Interestingly, on a positive note, we have found very little effect, if any, in the early life stages of juvenile snow crab. So, there's some hope for that species,” Foy said. “For fish, we’ve found limited if any effects on pollock, but we have found effects on cod and some flatfish species.” 

Most studies to date have focused on direct effects to an animal, Foy said, but future work will take a “bottoms up” approach to learn how ecosystem changes affect their metabolism and body functions. 

“We know more recently from the large changes we've seen in the climate and the increased warming, the heat waves we've seen in Alaska, that the lower trophic levels are dramatically affected by that heat. And those effects have been observed in the larger commercial fish species such as cod,” Foy said, referring to the 80% cod crash last year in the Gulf of Alaska that is blamed on imbalances caused by warmer water.  

The real concern, Foy said, is the speed at which changes are occurring.

“It's difficult to assess, difficult to manage,” he said. “Now we've got important commercial species moving thousands of kilometers over a couple of years in the Bering Sea, Northern Bering Sea and Chukchi Sea. That shows us that these populations will try to adapt, they will move and push the ranges of their physiology and their tolerance. The unknown is whether or not they can adapt at the speed at which everything is changing.”

Early victims of OA already are known to be pteropods, microscopic floating snails that make up a huge portion of the diets of juvenile pink salmon.

Research elsewhere also has shown that acidity affects growth rates of pink salmon and impairs the sense of smell in cohos. 

Evaluating the risks to Alaska salmon will be part of the discussion by Toby Schwoerer, a research associate at the University of Alaska Institute for Social and Economic Research Associate. 

Being forewarned is being forewarmed, said Bob Foy.  

“The importance of providing information and educating ourselves is critical,” he stressed. “Our goal is to get the word out to the commercial industry, coastal communities, to managers and policymakers so we can better understand how these changes in the environment may lead to changes in our economies, in our livelihoods and our ways of life in Alaska.” - More...
Saturday PM - October 12, 2019

Federal Rule Proposed to Protect Pacific Humpback Whale Critical Habitat; Endangered Whales Threatened by Fishing Gear, Vessel Strikes Habitat Impacts
Photo courtesy NOAA

Alaska & West Coast: Federal Rule Proposed to Protect Pacific Humpback Whale Critical Habitat; Endangered Whales Threatened by Fishing Gear, Vessel Strikes Habitat Impacts By MARY KAUFFMAN – The federal government proposed a new rule earlier this week to designate 302,961 square nautical miles in the Pacific Ocean as critical habitat for three populations of endangered humpback whales which includes areas in Alaska including Southeast Alaska. This new rule could help protect migrating whales from vessel strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, underwater noise, and habitat impactment.

NOAA Fisheries propose to designate critical habitat for the endangered Western North Pacific distinct population segment (DPS), the endangered Central America DPS, and the threatened Mexico DPS of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) pursuant to section 4 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 

The areas proposed as critical habitat and/or exclusive econimic zones include specific marine areas located off the coasts of California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. Based on consideration of national security and economic impacts, the National Marine Fisheries Services proposed to exclude multiple areas from the designation for each DPS. We are soliciting comments on all aspects of the proposed critical habitat designations and will consider information received prior to making final designations.

In Alaska, critical habitats and/or exclusive economic zones are listed in the new rule as Bristol Bay, Lake and Peninsula, Aleutians East, Aleutian West, Kodiak Island, Kenai Peninsula, Valdez- Cordova, Ketchikan Gateway Borough and the unorganized boroughs, Skagway-Hoonah- Angoon, Haines, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg, and Wrangell.

NOAA is soliciting comments on all aspects of the proposed critical habitat designations and will consider information received prior to making final designations. Comment period closes on December 09, 2019.

According to NOAA, before a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1985, all populations of humpback whales were greatly reduced, some by more than 95 percent. The species is now increasing in abundance in much of its range, but still faces threats from entanglement in fishing gear, vessel strikes, vessel-based harassment, underwater noise, and habitat impacts.

The announcement by the National Marine Fisheries Service follows a court-approved agreement in August 2018 with the Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network and Wishtoyo Foundation to issue new protections. The groups had sued the Trump administration for failing to protect two Pacific Ocean humpback populations listed as endangered and a third as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. - More....
Saturday PM - October 12, 2019


Alaska: Alaska Nurse Practitioner and Doctor Arrested on Separate Federal Narcotics Charges; Health officials prepare medical response to opioid arrests Posted & Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN – Following the arrest this week of two opioid prescribers in Alaska by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced Friday it is coordinating with state, federal, tribal and local partners and Alaska’s medical community to assist in addressing the physical and behavioral health needs for individuals with discontinued prescriptions.

Yesterday's announcement was in response to the arrests Tuesday by Special Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration of an Anchorage nurse practitioner and a Soldotna doctor on separate federal narcotics charges, which allege that they illegally distributed large amounts of opioids and other powerful narcotics by writing prescriptions for “patients” without medical examinations and lacking medical necessity.  Federal law enforcement officials executed multiple search warrants in both cases Tuesday. 

Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said, “The health and well-being of Alaskans is our mission. We are working with local, state, tribal and federal partners to support affected patients, families and the medical community. This includes supporting patients in chronic pain, providing information about pain management, helping to prevent and treat opioid misuse and supporting our community through this transition in care delivery.” Dr. Zink said, “We’re aware of the concerns of both patients and providers and we’re working to address questions and issues as quickly as possible.” 

According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, while they don’t know exactly how many patients may be affected, they do know that the two arrested providers served approximately 2,000 patients, some of whom traveled from remote communities to visit these providers. 

Patients and health care providers should also know that the DEA licenses for these two prescribers have been deactivated. That means opioid prescriptions from these prescribers, and in some cases other prescriptions, will not be filled by pharmacies. 

Arrested Tuesday was Jessica Joyce Spayd, 48, of Anchorage who owns a medical clinic called Eagle River Wellness in Eagle River, Alaska.  Spayd is a licensed Advanced Nurse Practitioner specializing in pain management and addiction treatment. Spayd was arrested pursuant to a criminal complaint that charges her with illegally distributing oxycodone, methadone, and hydromorphone.

The affidavit in support of the criminal complaint alleges that between 2014 and 2019, Spayd prescribed over 4 million dosage units of opioid narcotics to just over 450 unique “patients” in Alaska, many of whom traveled hundreds of miles from Fairbanks, Utqiagvik, King Salmon and other remote locations to obtain prescriptions. The complaint alleges that Spayd’s unlawful distribution of opioids resulted in the deaths of two patients. Law enforcement agencies continue to investigate Spayd’s prescribing history.

Also arrest earlier this week was Dr. Lavern R. Davidhizar, 74, of Soldotna who owns and practices at Family Medical Clinic in Soldotna, Alaska.  Davidhizar has been licensed as an Osteopathic Physician since 1978 and holds an Alaska Medical License. Davidhizar was arrested pursuant to a criminal complaint that charges him with illegally distributing controlled substances outside the course of professional practice.

The affidavit in support of the criminal complaint alleges that between 2017 and 2019, Davidhizar prescribed over 700,000 narcotic pills. During that time, the leading medications prescribed, but not limited to, were hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, methadone, and tramadol. According to the affidavit, drug abusers on the Kenai Peninsula referred to Davidhizar as the “Candy Man” because it was common knowledge that people could obtain pain medication prescriptions from him even though they did not have a legitimate medical need. Law enforcement agencies continue to investigate Davidhizar’s prescribing history.

In response to the arrests, U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder states, “[T]ogether with our partners in law enforcement, we are committed to prosecuting the illegal distribution of controlled substances, whether the crimes are committed by medical professionals or street dealers.  The end result of their activities is the same: the creation of addicts, crime, and sometimes death.”  - More...
Saturday PM - October 12, 2019


Alaska: Alaska again has extremely high per capita rankings for STD rates– The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) earlier this week released its 2018 STD Surveillance Report. In this annual snapshot of key trends for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the United States, Alaska again ranks first among states in per capita number of cases for chlamydia and second for gonorrhea. Alaska’s rankings for those STDs remain unchanged from the CDC’s 2017 STD Surveillance Report. 

Acccording to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, high STD rates are not unusual news for Alaska, but they are alarming and should serve as a reminder to Alaskans to practice safe sex and get tested. Alaska has consistently ranked among the highest per capita among states for chlamydia since tracking began in 1996. Rates of gonococcal infection (GC - more commonly called gonorrhea) are consistently higher than the national average rates and Alaska has been experiencing a gonorrhea outbreak since October 2017. 

In March 2018, the Division of Public Health noted a syphilis outbreak. Although ranked below the national average, syphilis rates in Alaska have increased considerably. In its report, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control highlighted a national increase in congenital syphilis, which is when the infection is passed from a mother to a fetus. In Alaska there is an increase in syphilis among women. Screening is an important first step and women should see a doctor if they notice a sore or rash, or if they think they’ve been exposed. Alaska has also recently experienced a cluster of HIV cases in Fairbanks; HIV is not covered in this CDC report. - More...
Saturday PM - October 12, 2019

Alaska: Although decision difficult, Governor vetoes HB48 – Alaska Governor Michael J. Dunleavy announced yesterday that he has vetoed House Bill 48, which is legislation to reclassify state employees in temporary or special positions and which would repeal the authority given to Commissioners and the Governor to authorize higher pay for certain positions. 

The governor said in a prepared statement, “Reaching this decision was difficult. I agree with the original intent of the bill that Representative [Tammi] Wilson [R] brought forward. We both identified it as a change that needed to occur in our Personnel Act; I introduced the same provision in a bill I brought forward this past session."

“What we struggled with, as we had departments look at the bill after passage, was the repeal of the valuable tool that the Executive branch may utilize in unique cases. There are certain positions in departments that require a significant amount of experience and professional qualifications, such as petroleum land managers and commercial analysts in the Department of Natural Resources, the Chief Financial Officer for Retirement and Benefits and the Chief Technology Officer in the Department of Administration, and the Tax Division Director in the Department of Revenue," wrote the governor.

In his prepared statement the governor said, “On one hand, the bill fixed a significant problem. On the other hand, it eliminated a tool that is used to address the State’s ability to recruit and retain employees of the highest level of qualifications and experience. As I am not able to partially veto a bill, I have committed to working with Rep. Wilson in the future to address the use or creation of temporary or special positions.” - More...
Saturday PM - October 12, 2019

Sifting volcano paydirt to help forecast eruptions

Sifting volcano paydirt to help forecast eruptions
Pavlof Volcano on the Alaska Peninsula erupts in March 2016. The photo was taken from a Coast Guard HC-130H based in Kodiak and commanded by Lt. Commander Nahshon Almandmoss.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard

Alaska: Sifting volcano paydirt to help forecast eruptions By NED ROZELL - More than 100 volcanoes pimple the adolescent skin of Alaska, spreading from ear to ear. Some are loud, flamboyant and obnoxious. Others are sneaky and quiet, escaping notice until a pilot sees a gray plume that wasn’t there yesterday.

Because people live on the slopes of these volcanoes and thousands more fly through their blast zones each day, scientists want to forecast eruptions with more precision.

For the past 30 years, scientists at the Alaska Volcano Observatory have had their fingers on the pulse of volcanoes, looking for signs of shakiness and sending out alerts when something is going on. On an early October 2019 day, for example, AVO’s webpage showed that Cleveland, Semisopochnoi and Shishaldin volcanoes were all a bit restless.

When an eruption happens, scientists with the observatory use all their information streams to get warnings out. Their tools include seismometers planted into volcano flanks, satellites that send back infrared pixels of hotspots, GPS units that show volcanoes inflating like balloons, gas sensors that tell what is wafting from a crater, microphones on volcanoes that hear explosions, and rocks and ash collected from mountainsides.

That’s a firehose of information, and scientists are happy to have it all. There is so much, though, that researchers rarely get to all of it before another eruption happens.

A team of them will set up four Ph.D. students to dig into that data paydirt, to see if they can find a key to better eruption forecasts. - More...
Saturday PM - October 12, 2019



LEON KOLANKIEWICZ: Greatest Threat to Endangered Species Aren't Trump's New Rules - The Trump administration is about to implement new rules that it claims will "modernize" and "improve" the Endangered Species Act (ESA). All too predictably, certain industries in Trump's favor approve of this imminent overhaul, while environmentalists are in an uproar. 

Yet neither the Trump administration nor its most vociferous environmental critics is willing to address or even acknowledge the major threat to all imperiled wildlife in the United States: massive habitat loss associated with unending U.S. population growth.

Degradation and loss of habitat is far and away the single most important cause of disappearing wildlife, much more than pollution, invasive species or poaching.

Propelled mostly by the largest immigration wave in American history, the number of Americans grew by about 60 million from 1990 to 2010, at a rate of 30 million per decade. Tens of millions more have been added this decade as well, and now there are almost 330 million of us, and counting.

American families have averaged fewer than two children for years, so that future population growth in our country will be almost entirely due to mass immigration.

Each added person - each new American consumer, whether native-born or foreign-born - is, on average, responsible for the loss of about half an acre of natural habitat or farmland. These lands are developed to meet our ever-rising demands for housing, transportation, commercial and office space, warehouses, factories and manufacturing, utilities, educational and government facilities, and so forth.

A 2019 study by Conservation Science Partners identified agriculture, energy, transportation and urban stressors as the major factors in loss and fragmentation of natural habitat in the lower 48 states. Population growth exacerbates each of these. More people require more land to grow more food, more habitat-destroying surface coal mines, wind and solar facilities, and the like. - More...
Saturday PM - October 12, 2019

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Ketchikan's Cruise Ship Project By Janalee Gage - For full disclosure, I’m serving my second term on the Ketchikan City Council. These are my views and information I’ve gathered working on the cruise ship project, speaking only for myself as a resident, and not for the council.

The question I’ve heard a lot lately is, why solicit a port expansion Request for Proposals when most residents don't want more tourists? This RFP wouldn’t be looking at expansion; it’s about reconfigurating the port to accommodate ships already visiting Ketchikan.

The question should be: Why haven’t we investigated every opportunity that benefits our community with an RFP?

For the past 30 years we’ve given the cruise industry huge breaks in docking fees — as if they need a break. The three major cruise companies, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival, control up to 80% of a market worth nearly $80 billion and growing so fast that, by 2020, nearly 30 million people will take a cruise somewhere.

Yet, because of maritime law, we cannot use fees that the city collects on things these ships and passengers use outside the port. Meanwhile, Ketchikan struggles to maintain infrastructure that isn’t built to withstand the mass numbers of tourists who use these services here: Emergency response (Fire, EMT, hospital), Wi-Fi, electric, sewage, garbage, public trails and roads.

First, the reconfiguration isn’t about adding ships, it’s so the current ships can accommodate passengers on and off the ship efficiently. - More....
Saturday PM - October 12, 2019

jpg Opinion

Domestic Violence Will Never Be Tolerated By Amanda Price - He is the monster under my bed, saboteur of my dreams. His résumé includes schoolteacher, felon and, more recently, retired country “gentleman.” He is a specter of my past, a stalker who lurks within waiting to spring into view and set my heart pounding. He is the Devil at my doorstep, progenitor of my greatest fears. Most poignantly, though, his blood is my own. He is my father.

Only last week I was startled awake after 3 a.m. by a house-rattling “bang!” It was him. He was in the hallway outside my closed bedroom door, beating my mother. My mother screamed and, smothered by darkness and too terrified to move I cowered beneath my blankets, trembling as I had so many times more than 45 years before. 

Forty-five years?


The impulse is to sneer and shout: Let it go already! Take responsibility for your life and move on, for Christ’s sake. Stop blaming your father. Be a man.

Perhaps those jeers are his; the voice delivering them, after all, sounds familiar. But the fear is imbedded deeply within, like a virus. And it’s not going away. Ever. The heart-racing terror I felt in the wee hours last Tuesday was as sheer and stark as any imaginable. The roars and screams, the breaking glass and panic of decades ago were not nightmares. They were real.  

That is how a colleague of mine - a professionally successful and well-regarded associate, and a middle-aged survivor of domestic violence— described a recent nightmare. Similar frightening dreams, once common, haunt him less frequently now, he says. But the scars remain. And the horrors reflected above, along with others far worse, will remain with him – and his mother, and his sister – forever. Healing from domestic violence is a lifelong endeavor. - More...
Saturday PM - October 12, 2019


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