Senator Lisa Murkowski returned to her home state earlier than expected last week, in time to make it to the opening of two new health clinics on St. Lawrence Island.
“This is something that we have been involved with and helping to advance over the years, and when it turned out that I had an open schedule this week, I said, ‘Is there any way to get out to Savoonga?’ And there is!” said Murkowski.
Murkowski made a stop in Nome on August 8 and toured the city with mayor Richard Beneville before she continued on to Savoonga. Norton Sound Health Corporation, which will operate the clinics, formally celebrated the openings on August 8 in Savoonga and in Gambell the next day.
Murkowski drew national attention last month when she voted against a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Unlike most of her party, she believed the Republican-led plan would not be in the best interest of her constituents.
Murkowski says, like all Alaskans, she is very familiar with the state’s unique health care challenges, from limited access to villages, to the high cost of living in much of the state:
“And for us in Alaska it’s part of our reality, but when you try to explain that to those in the lower 48, they say, ‘Oh, well, you’re just not doing enough to keep your costs down.’ We’re not going to ever be able to shrink our geography so that we’re located closer, and so for me to be able to be an advocate for Alaska, giving us the flexibility that we need to address some of these issues has been a priority of mine. It’s not easy, but it is something that is necessary to try to do.”
The new clinics in Savoonga and Gambell are the result of several years of planning.
“It is exciting, it’s important, and it’s long past due,” said Murkowski.
Both clinics on St. Lawrence Island will begin seeing patients on September 7.
Image at top: file photo: Senator Lisa Murkowski at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention in October 2014.