Appointments now available for annual Health Fair blood screenings

The 34th annual Rotary Health Fair is set for Saturday, October 28 from 7:30am-1:00pm at the Homer High School.   “It’s Your Life … Take a Day to be Well” is the theme of the fair, sponsored by Homer Kachemak Bay Rotary Club in cooperation with South Peninsula Hospital.

As part of the health fair, comprehensive blood analysis is available for only $40, a sizeable discount from the average cost of a comparable test. These tests are offered by appointment at the fair, or before the fair at the hospital with the results available for pickup at the fair.  Appointments are offered from October 9-27 in the hospital conference room on the hospital’s lower level. Click here for appointment.

In addition to the basic wellness test, additional tests available for purchase include prostate, thyroid, cardiac, vitamin D and hemoglobin A1C.  Click here for the complete list of tests available.

The purpose of the fair is to set aside just one day of your life to take advantage of free and inexpensive health screenings and up-to-date information on relevant health topics.  Over 50 exhibitors will be available to offer various health screenings, demonstrations and services, including blood pressure, vision tests, hearing tests, flu shots, fitness tests and more.   For more information call the Healthfair Hotline at 399-3158

Congratulations Mary Lou!

A retirement party will be held for Mary Lou Kelsey on Friday, October 13 from 5-9pm in the upstairs restaurant at the Best Western Bidarka Inn. Refreshments will be provided. Come celebrate and reminisce Mary Lou’s 35 years of midwifery care, and more than a thousand babies born into her arms, on the southern peninsula! Bring your photos, written memories or mementos to add to her Keepsake Box.

Kid’s Walk-In Flu Shot Clinic

No appointment necessary!
10am – 3pm
Saturday October, 14 at Homer Medical Center
Face painting and activities!

This is for flu shots only.  Appointments are necessary for other vaccinations and health concerns. Open to all children under 18!  A $27 administration fee will be billed to insurance providers, but there will be no charge for those without insurance.

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Six-week health self-management program offered

South Peninsula Hospital will offer “Living Well Alaska”, a chronic disease self-management class from mid-October to mid-November. Developed by Stanford University, this six week group workshop is for people dealing with ongoing health conditions or the family members who support them. People with all kinds of long term conditions such as arthritis, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and other illnesses can benefit. It offers fun with others while you practice skills to live life to the fullest and meet day-to-day challenges. At a Living Well Alaska workshop, you will learn the skills to set goals, problem solve understand and handle symptoms, eat well and be active, deal with difficult emotions and work with your health care team

The workshop runs every Thursday from October 12 – November 16, 2017, from 4:30-6:30pm. The cost is only $10 for the entire six-week series. Registration is required. For more information and to register, please call 235-0258.

Hospital CEO to retire next year, leaving a decade-long legacy of leadership and dedication

Recruitment efforts for new CEO to begin immediately

After nearly a decade at the helm of South Peninsula Hospital, CEO Robert Letson announced his retirement earlier this week. He plans to retire in June 2018. The hospital’s board of directors will begin recruitment efforts for a new CEO immediately.

As CEO, Letson is credited with numerous organization achievements, including improved financial performance, the addition and expansion of outpatient clinics and services, the inclusion of primary care, and the successful recruitment and retention of 26 new physicians.

Matt Hambrick, president of the hospital’s board of directors, said, “We are extremely grateful for Bob’s leadership and dedication over the past 10 years. He led our community hospital to a top-100, five-star level, improving the quality of life for the residents we serve. His vision and commitment put our community hospital on the leading edge of healthcare.”

Letson became the hospital’s chief administrator in March 2008, bringing with him more than 21 years of proven success in not-for-profit hospital management and 13 years with for-profit hospitals. Since then, he has been instrumental in the advancement of hospital services and operations. Under his leadership, South Peninsula Hospital has three times been named a Top 100 Critical Access Hospital in the nation, chosen out of 1,300 eligible hospitals based on quality, patient perspective, affordability, market strength and other performance indicators. Additionally, the hospital’s nursing home is rated five-star by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Quality Compare Program based on quality measures, staffing and health inspections.

Letson worked closely with the hospital board and Kenai Peninsula Borough administration to improve the hospital’s financial performance and set the organization on a financially sustainable foundation. Playing a significant role in that was the 2012 merger with Homer Medical Center, the community’s largest primary care clinic – a move that put the hospital in line with current healthcare delivery and reimbursement models.

Letson also greatly expanded the availability of local specialists, recruiting more than a dozen new specialists and significantly widening the type of specialty care available locally. His tenure brought the addition of orthopedics, oncology, functional medicine, OB/GYN, emergency medicine physicians, a cholesterol/diabetes specialist, and interventional radiology, among others. He also established a V.A. clinic, added addiction medicine, and began offering behavioral health as part of primary care.

As hospital services grew, so did the need to employ talented, dedicated people, and under Letson’s leadership, the hospital became a top employer and economic driver in the community, with more than 400 employees and a payroll of over $25 million.

Letson successfully led the effort to obtain Critical Access Hospital, Emergency Level Trauma IV and Patient Centered Medical Home II designations. He also guided the organization through the maze of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), preparing the hospital for the industry changes and ensuring it remained sustainable through implementation of the ACA.
Most recently, Letson championed the expansion of Homer Medical Center to increase access to primary care and better meet the demands of the growing and aging community. The expansion, which received voter approval in 2016 and broke ground in spring of 2017, includes the addition of seven exam rooms, an expanded waiting room, procedure rooms, and general added capacity. This expansion will allow for the addition of primary care providers, which is necessary to meet current demand in the community.

Letson received the American Hospital Association’s Grassroots Champion Award in 2013 for his exceptional leadership in generating grassroots and community activity in support of a hospital’s mission. In 2012, he was named in the inaugural list of “50 Rural Hospital CEOs to Know” by Becker’s Hospital Review, acknowledging his commitment to providing high-quality, accessible care and his approach to the challenges of rural healthcare.

In addition to his leadership at the hospital, Letson is also active in the community. He has served on the Homer Chamber of Commerce board of directors for seven years, and is currently the Chamber president. He also served on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Healthcare Task Force, is currently on the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association (ASHNHA) leadership team, is chair of ASHNHA’s Small Hospital Network and Workforce Development Committee, and is Alaska’s alternate state delegate to the American Hospital Association.

“Bob’s easy-going manner and community-minded spirit will be missed,” Hambrick said. “It was an important factor in relationship building, not only internally with employees and medical staff, but out in the community and state.”

Letson is a fellow of the American College of Health Executives, is board certified in healthcare management, and has his master’s degree in healthcare administration. He has been a hospital administrator for more than 40 years. Before coming to Homer, he worked most recently for eight years as CEO of Gilmore Health System in Amory, Mississippi, and five years at Florence General Hospital in Florence, South Carolina.

Letson and his wife, Cristal, plan to move east to be closer to family and spend time with their growing number of grandchildren.

Dr. Ostrom offers new procedures at Homer Medical Center

Katie Ostrom, MD, OB/GYN at Homer Medical Center, now performs laser therapy as a painless alternative to using hormone therapy for vaginal restoration. The laser treatment stimulates the production of collagen in the vaginal tissue, improving the treated area’s functionality and restoring the proper balance to the mucous membrane.

This procedure can cure many of the uncomfortable conditions resulting from menopause or childbirth, allowing women to fully enjoy their postmenopausal and post-childbearing years. Treatable discomforts commonly include dryness, incontinence, burning, painful intercourse and laxity.

Laser therapy is the most effective treatment for these conditions without the use of pharmaceuticals or surgery. Visit for more information or call 235-8586 to make an appointment.

Welcome New Certified Nurse Midwife

South Peninsula Hospital welcomes Dana Whittaker, Certified Nurse Midwife, to the women’s health team at Homer Medical Center’s West Wing.  Whittaker, Certified Nurse Midwife and Advanced Nurse Practitioner, received her nursing degree from Weber State University and her masters from Frontier Nursing University.  She became a Certified Direct Entry Midwife in Alaska after attending Seattle Midwifery School where she specialized in home births. She has been a nurse at South Peninsula Hospital for 12 years, was in private practice for four years, and interned at Alaska Native Medical Center, Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic and at HMC West Wing.

Dana has been delivering babies for over 25 years and has worked in clinics and hospitals in the West Indies, West Africa and Senegal.  She treats delivery as a normal, physiological birth, and enjoys sharing the evidence that supports natural deliveries while supporting women’s choice.

For an appointment or to learn more about midwifery, well woman and newborn care at Homer Medical Center’s West Wing, call 435-3040, or visit

City takes the trophy in Homer Steps Up Challenge!

The City of Homer won the trophy in the first ever inter-agency steps challenge, sponsored by South Peninsula Hospital.

Agency # of Participants Cumulative Average High Steppers
City of Homer 32 participants 337,571 Todd Cook: 609,797 steps
SPH 115 participants 311,239d Kristen Churchill: 640,707
The Center 22 participants 309,152 Laurie Heckert: 745,484
SVT Health & Wellness 15 participants 287,108 Monica Anderson: 453,614

Top stepper of the challenge was Laurie Heckert: 745,484.

Nearly 200 people participated in the challenge, organized by South Peninsula Hospital between lead health organizations in the community during the month of May.  The individual participant goal was 7,500 steps each day. The individual with the most steps won $250, and those who walk a minimum of 166,067 total steps were entered into a drawing for a $1,000 cash prize, donated by the South Peninsula Hospital Foundation.

The hospital plans to get even more teams involved next year, and offer an individual category.

A Day of Mindfulness Offered

Jerry Braza, PhD, will offer a one day Mindfulness training on Saturday, May 13, from 10am – 4pm at Many Rivers.  The morning session includes guided mindfulness practice and a mindful walk. The afternoon includes deep relaxation, mindful contemplation, mindful movements and practices for home.  No prior experience is needed. Braza is a leading voice in the field of health education and mindfulness, former university professor and author of two books on the subject.

People can register for half or full day training. A sliding scale registration fee is offered and range from $20-$30 for the half day, and $30-$60 for the full day.   Contact 235-0258 to register.

Free Speech and Swallowing Screenings during the month of May!

Difficulty swallowing? Can’t quite get the words to come out right? A 15 minute screening for speech, language, swallowing, voice, resonance, or cognitive communication is offered for free in May, which is Better Hearing and Speech Month.

Susan Cates-Blackmon, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, offers this screening which is perfect for adults, children and their caregivers who have concerns about a potential speech or swallowing concern.   Whether looking for reassurance or referral for further investigation about your concerns, this brief screening could help identify or resolve problems affecting speech or swallowing.

Call the hospital’s Rehab Department at 235-0370 to arrange your free 15 minute appointment.