The Aberdeen Area of the Indian Health Service (IHS) is in a “chronic state of crisis,” said U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, in an investigative report released Wednesday. The report is a culmination of an 18-month investigation by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, reported the Associated Press.
Sen. Dorgan blamed serious management problems and a lack of oversight of the Aberdeen region, which serves 100,000 Native Americans from 18 tribes in the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa, according to the report.
Dorgan called for “urgent and immediate corrective action,” in his statement released with the report, reported the AP.
IHS facilities in the Aberdeen Area have been criticized for years with mounting allegations of mismanagement and substandard services.
“Fixing these problems must be an urgent, national priority,” Dorgan said, also mentioning that Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, Director of the IHS, has improved conditions since assuming office, but “she cannot solve these problems by herself,” he said.
The Senate investigation discovered a lack of employee accountability and financial integrity; several service units experiencing substantial and recurring diversions of reduced health care services because of lack of qualified providers or funds; five IHS hospitals at risk of losing Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) certification; healthcare providers without proper licensing; key senior staff positions remaining vacant for long periods, contributing to the lack of proper management; employees with a record of misconduct moved to another IHS facility; and three service units with a history of missing or stolen narcotics.
Change requires continued commitment, Dorgan said, as he prepares to step down from his senate seat next week. “Meaningful change will require a clear plan, with timeframes and the long-term commitment of the Department of Health and Human Services.”