CLOSURE – Amanda Baggen sets a candle on the Indian River foot bridge Tuesday night in memory of her sister Jessica, who was killed 24 years ago at age 17 while walking home through the nearby woods. Dozens of Sitkans turned out to leave candles and flowers on the bridge Tuesday night after Alaska State Troopers and Sitka Police announced earlier in the day they had solved the 1996 murder case using DNA evidence. The suspect, Steve Branch, 66, a former Sitka resident, killed himself at his home in Austin, Arkansas, shortly after being contacted there by officers Aug. 3. Baggen said she thinks this is the last year she will be lighting candles at the bridge, something she, her friends and family have been doing every year for the past 24 years. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

What's In It For Sitka

Since the Affordable Health Care Act went into effect in 2010 Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski has taken every opportunity to say how terrible it is and how she wants it to be repealed.

She now has the chance to see her wish fulfilled.

Sen. Dan Sullivan and the third member of Alaska’s delegation in Washington, Rep. Don Young, are on board with her.

From time to time they will come up with an anecdote about someone in Alaska having difficulty getting affordable coverage. They worry about that and, as in no other issue affecting Alaska, they worry about the effect on the U.S. Treasury.

But the facts are that the Affordable Care Act has made health insurance available to thousands of Alaskans for the first time. Also for the first time, it gave protection to all Americans, ending the “pre-existing condition” exception for coverage and removing lifetime limits on benefits, as but two examples.

Without enumerating the many benefits the ACA provides to us as individuals, whether our coverage is from the exchanges or from private, employer or government plans, we wish to point out an area of financial benefit that the ACA provides to our entire community of Sitka.

For that we turn to Rob Allen, chief executive officer of Sitka Community. With his permission we print the following letter, dated Jan. 5, which he sent to Sen, Murkowski, and separately to Sen. Sullivan and Rep. Young,

Dear Senator Murkowski,

I am writing to urge you to vote against repeal of the Affordable Care Act unless and until there

is a viable alternative that would ensure affordable medical care for all Alaskans.

I know that your Republican colleagues in Congress have declared the Affordable Care Act a

failure. I am not sure why. As the CEO of Sitka Community Hospital, I can report that the

Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid have had a direct positive effect on your

constituents here in Sitka. We are your typical struggling rural critical access hospital, and I

truly believe we would have had to close if not for the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid

expansion. It has helped the citizens of our small town access healthcare, and has improved

our finances as a community hospital.

Following is a table showing the charity care that Sitka Community Hospital has provided over

the past several years. You can easily see the trend downward as the Affordable Care Act took

effect. You can also observe the dramatic improvement last year, when Governor Walker

expanded Medicaid. As part of that process we were allowed to preemptively enroll apparently

eligible patients for Medicaid. We have signed up more than 35 people to date. We also have

numerous patients that used to receive charity care, but now have Medicaid. It has made an

incredible difference to our finances and to the health of Sitkans.

Charity Care at Sitka Community Hospital

2012 $851,000

2013 $664,000

2014 $360,000

2015 $434,000

2016 $ 59,280

For the first six months of fiscal year 2017, which began last June, we have accrued less than

$15,000 for charity care. In our analysis, the reductions in charity care and bad debt are solely

due to the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid expansion. The savings have helped stabilize

our finances, and have allowed us to invest in better services for our patients. I’m not sure how

the increase in the number of your constituents receiving health care can be characterized as a


I voted for you in the 2016 primary and general elections because I truly believe that you have

the best interests of Alaskans at heart. While repealing the Affordable Care Act is part of the

Republican Party platform, it would be bad for your constituents. There are times when it is

important to put politics aside and do the right thing. This is one of those times. I urge you to

not join your Republican colleagues in repealing or gutting the Affordable Care Act unless and

until you have a viable and feasible plan to ensure the availability and affordability of health

care services, and the stability of our health care system in Sitka, in Alaska, and for the nation as

a whole.

Please do not vote for bills or budgets that will compromise the access to healthcare of so many

Americans. It will be far better for Sitka Community Hospital and your constituents for you to

work towards improving the health care system we have and making it work for more people.

Please contact me if you would like more information on the impact of the Affordable Care Act

on your constituents in Sitka.


Rob Allen


CEO, Sitka Community Hospital

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August 5, 2020

A Note To Our Readers

Reopening: Phase One:


On March 30 the Daily Sitka Sentinel began taking precautions against the coronavirus, which was starting to show up in Alaska.

We closed our building to the public and four key employees started working remotely. Home delivery was suspended to protect our carriers from exposure to the virus.

Four months later, the virus is still with us and the precautions remain in effect.

In appreciation for the willingness of our subscribers to pick up their daily paper at drop-off sites, the Sentinel was free to all readers, and subscriptions were extended without charge.

As of August 1 the Sentinel is once again charging for subscriptions, but the present method of having subscribers pick up their papers at designated sites will continue.

The expiration date of all subscriptions has been extended without charge for an additional four months.

We thank our readers for their support in these uncertain times, and especially those who paid for the paper despite the free offer.

We look forward to the time when we can safely resume home delivery.

To check on the expiration of your subscription or to make a payment please call 747-3219. The subscription email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We also will be mailing out reminder cards.

The single copy price is again 75 cents. The news racks do not require coins to open, but we ask that the 75 cents for a non-subscription single copy sale be paid with coins in the slot.

– The Sitka Sentinel Staff


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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 8-12-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 11:20 a.m. Wednesday.

New cases as of Tuesday: 62

Total statewide – 3,881

Total (cumulative) deaths – 27

Active cases in Sitka – 22 (16 resident; 6 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 16 (12 resident; 4 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 164.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

* These numbers reflect State of Alaska data. Local cases may not immediately appear on DHSS site, or are reported on patient’s town of residence rather than Sitka’s statistics. 




August 2000

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August 1970

Trollers and their skippers reporting in at Cold Storage Tuesday were Lark Star, John Polivka; Emma, William Sanders; Majestic, George Rohrer; Needlefish, Wayne Westover; The Peasant, Van Baker; The Spencer, Charles Raleigh ....