A15,500-square-foot, 12-chair, two-story, gleaming and airydental clinic recently opened in Dillingham to welcome patients hailing from the Bristol Bay area.
Bristol Bay Area Health Corp.’s new structure replaces an Indian Health Service clinic. The old facility had seven chairs, which were divided between a space within the main hospital and an annex made from two converted trailers that had been there since 1973 — the year a consortium of Bristol Bay’s Yup’ik, Dena’ina and Sugpiaq/Alutiiq tribes formed the BBAHC to provide comprehensive health care services.
Livingston Slone designed the new clinic, and Roger Hickel Contracting built it.
“Our dental team provides services here in Dillingham and also flies to the villages, weather permitting,” said Dr. Lecia Scotford, BBAHC’s Chief Operating Officer, who spearheaded the dental clinic project. “Our appoint-ments were always booked solid, as there is a great need for dental care in the region.”
The new structure will enhance services provided at BBAHC’s Kanak-anak Hospital campus as well as help serve outlying areas. The Bristol Bay population is about 7,500; Dillingham has a population of about 2,500, and the balance comes from villages in the surrounding area.
In 2010, BBAHC had an overall master site plan done, which included a 7,000-square-foot dental clinic, boarders’ quarters and housing, but the plan never came to fruition. In 2014, Dr. Scotford presented a project business plan to the BBAHC board of directors that included a 15,500-square-foot building for the dental clinic and support offices.
“They had their overall design, which included some things they couldn’t get rid of, due to federal regulations,” Rodney Mohr, Hickel’s Project Manager, said of the original plan.
They had a vapor-mitigation system, he said, “which consisted of a high-tech vapor barrier sealed to the concrete foundation, some extraction wells designed to expel any vapors before they reach the vapor barrier, and a monitoring well used to test vapor levels present in the ground soil.”
A ventilation system keeps the entire building, including the crawlspace, under positive pressure, Mohr said, preventing vapors from entering the occupied space of the building.”
Hickel Contracting helped determine the most feasible finishes to use in the Dillingham area, as well as what costs and constraints would be for labor and materials.
“That’s mostly what we helped them with,” Mohr said. “Our electrical and mechanical subcontractors were brought on to assist the design team and the owner to explore different ideas on how to route the ventilation and the different systems, what would be more cost-effective for what their needs are and what their future needs might be.”
Dr. Scotford said the biggest challenges are the actual space of BBAHC’s hospital — “It is a ‘work in progress,’ remodeling areas and making the best of our facilities to comply with all regulatory agencies,” she said — as well as transportation because of isolation and funding.
“For us, the biggest challenges were probably the unknown costs of shipping, working out in the Bush and trying to coordinate things to get on the barge in time,” Mohr said, “and also qualified local labor. We tried and did hire some local, but a lot of the times the skilled labor required to complete the project was not locally available. In addition, finding housing accommodations for work crews was a challenge.”
Mohr said durability of products chosen for a project is more important in a remote place like Dillingham than in a community on a road system.
“I think they wanted to do a whole lot more tile — floor tile and wall tile,” he said. “We suggested finishes that are not only easier to replace or repair in case of damage, but also prove to be ‘cleaner’ or more sterile, which is desired in a health-care facility. What products to use, what products would hold up better for them and be more cost-effective to fix if they fail. The finishes on the exterior are very durable, due to extreme weather conditions.”
Being one of the bigger contractors in the area, Hickel Contracting sponsored Dillingham’s basketball team for a trip to another village for a tournament. Hickel also turned over surplus trusses and construction material to the hospital to repair a roof on a hospital storage facility.
“We were able to work together to make mutually beneficial agreements,” Mohr said. “We allowed them to use our forklift for a bunch of owner-supplied and owner-installed items toward the end. They’re allow-ing us to store some of our equipment on site until the spring, until we get it out of there — a real good working relationship.”
Mohr said 35 to 40 employees worked on the project during the busier times.
Mark Scotford, BBAHC project manager, collaborated with project engineer Brad Archer and facility manager Bryan Reed on the building and Bristol Engineers, PND Engineers and ERM Engineers, in addition to Livingston Slone and Hickel Contracting.
BBAHC’s new clinic meets Green Building Council LEED guidelines, uses LED lighting and has insulation that exceeds design requirements for the area and energy-efficient windows.
The building is designed with an integral foundation system to withstand a 9.2-magnitude earthquake with minimal damage. Dental services occupy the entire first floor, with 12 operatories and high-tech equipment, while the second floor houses support staff for the business office, finance and medical records, Dr. Scotford said.
“We broke ground in June 2015, and the building was completed and operational in September 2016,” she said.
“Our staff is very happy and excited to work in such a beautiful place, and it has done wonders for morale,” Dr. Scotford continued. “One patient said to our doctor, ‘Gosh, I feel like I have to dress up to come to the clinic!’ That was nice to know.
Tracy Kalytiak is a freelance writer who lives in Palmer.