U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs released an investigative report on Wednesday that describes the Aberdeen Area of the Indian Health Service(IHS) in a "chronic state of crisis" and in need of urgent reform. Serious management problems and a lack of oversight of this region have adversely affected the access and quality of health care provided to Native Americans in the Aberdeen Area, which serves 18 tribes in the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa, according to the report.
Dorgan released the results of the Committee's investigation he launched June 23, 2010, after years hearing from individuals, Indian tribes and IHS employees about substandard health care services and mismanagement of IHS facilities in the Aberdeen Area. The investigation reviewed 140,000 pages of IHS documents, visited three IHS facilities in the Aberdeen area, met with tribal members and individual IHS employees. Over 200 individuals also contacted the committee to share their concerns.
Dorgan said that Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, Director of the IHS has made some improvements since she assumed office, but much more is needed.
The Chairman's Report on the investigation is available, in full, on the committee's website, at the following link:
"Our investigation found a chronic state of crisis at the Indian Health Service's Aberdeen Area," Dorgan said. "It requires urgent and immediate corrective action across a broad front. The federal government has treaty and trust obligations to provide quality health care to Native Americans. This investigation reveals that the health of the first Americans is directly and adversely impacted by the mismanagement of the Area. Fixing these problems must be an urgent, national priority," he said.
"I know that the Director of IHS, Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, is working hard to set a tone of integrity and accountability throughout the Agency. However, she cannot solve these problems by herself. Meaningful change will require a clear plan, with timeframes and the long-term commitment of the Department of Health and Human Services," Dorgan said.
Among the investigation's major findings:
* Chronic mismanagement, lack of employee accountability and financial integrity;
* Several service units experienced substantial and recurring diversions of reduced
health care services, due to lack of qualified providers or funds;
* Five IHS hospitals in the Aberdeen Area are at risk of losing their accreditation or
certification from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS);
* Several facilities have been cited as having health care providers on staff who
lacked proper licensing or credentialing;
* Key senior staff positions remained vacant for long periods of time, contributing to
the lack of proper management;
* Employees with a record of misconduct or poor performance being transferred to
different health facilities within the Indian health system;
* Pharmaceutical audits of narcotics and other controlled substances are not
regularly performed, and three service units within the region have a history of
missing or stolen narcotics.