“There was just limited room in that old clinic,” Howard Weyiouanna, mayor of Shishmaref, told listeners. At 5,400 square feet, the new clinic is about three times bigger.

“With more exam rooms, you can just offer more appointment slots,” said Angie Gorn, the CEO of Norton Sound Health Corporation. At the ribbon cutting ceremony in the village, she and the chairman of NSHC’s board of directors praised the collaboration with the Native Village of Shishmaref.

“We appreciate each of the leadership in our communities — meaning our tribal council, our city council, our corporation boards — working together,” chairman Preston Rookok said.

This is the fifth new clinic built by NSHC over the past five years, and two more are yet to come. NSHC started construction on a new clinic in St. Michael this year, and will start on a new clinic in Wales next year. After the new hospital in Nome was built, Gorn said it became a priority for the corporation to “ensure that every community had a new, larger clinic to meet the needs of the community”.

The new facilities have more specialized equipment, like dedicated dental facilities.

With new facilities, traveling dental workers no longer need to bring their own equipment to care for patients in Shishmaref.

“Without a larger clinic, you’ll have dental come in with all the equipment, either set up in an extra room in the clinic, or operate out of the school. All the new clinics now are able to accommodate dental and dental will have its own operatory,” Gorn said.

NSHC is currently working with the city of Shishmaref to purchase the old clinic building. The hope is to convert it to housing, which would bring a mid-level provider such as a physician assistant to the village for the first time.

Image at top: Happy scenes in Shishmaref for the grand opening of their new clinic. The building improves access to medical care for the 500 residents in the village.

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