Poor management and lack of accountability have contributed to inadequate healthcare for Native Americans in the Great Plains region, representatives of South Dakota tribes told a state Senate panel on Feb. 3, according to a report in the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls.
In response, federal officials announced initiatives including the creation of a multi-agency group to focus on quality and patient safety and designating a single organization to accredit Indian Health Service hospitals, according to the Argus Leader report.
According to the article written by Christopher Doering, William Bear Shield of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota told the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, “It may be too late for many of our members, but it is not too late to make a change for better healthcare for the native children that come from the poorest counties in our nation.”
Representatives of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe were joined by representatives of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. They provided the committee with examples of misdiagnoses, inadequate care and facilities and denial of basic care that might have prevented more severe problems.
Hospitals providing free care to Native Americans are overseen by Indian Health Services. Doering reported that tribe and lawmakers blamed poor management and lack of accountability have led to a delay in correcting problems that has put Native Americans at risk.
Bear Shield said politicians, native communities and the healthcare community must come together to correct the problems, or “the premature deaths of our people and this dysfunction we speak of will continue to flourish.”
One problem Bear Shield cited was at the Rosebud hospital, 100 miles southwest of Pierre. The hospital has had no ED for more than two months, and has had to send patients 44 miles to Valentine, Neb., and 55 miles to Winner, S.D.
The Argus Leader reported inspections last fall found that Rosebud and a facility in Pine Ridge found poor sanitation and improper record-keeping. At Rosebud, surgical instruments were hand-washed for six months and there was a failure to monitor a patient who delivered a baby prematurely on a bathroom floor.
Mary Wakefield, acting deputy secretary with the Department of Health and Human Services, told the committee she recognized the need to better care for the Native American communities. “We take the challenges we are here to discuss today very seriously, and you have our commitment to work to make meaningful progress,” she said.
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