As a Rosebud Sioux Tribal member, an at large member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Health Board, Navy veteran, and citizen of South Dakota and the United States, I am asking Congress to finish what it started and pass the Indian Health Service Health Care bill and have a confirmation hearing by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee for Robert Weaver before the end of the year. Here is why.
I am disheartened over the lack of leadership within the IHS. In December 2015, our emergency room was shut down because it could not provide basic health care. In June 2016, we lost our obstetrics and surgical departments. In July 2016 — seven months and nine deaths after the emergency room was closed — IHS contracted emergency services to a non-government organization.
During that time, the Tribe contacted Congress and the media and reported on atrocities created by IHS. With the help of Sen. Thune and Sen. Barrasso, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee held a hearing in Washington, D.C., and a field hearing in Rapid City. Rep. Noem also held a hearing with the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs. Legislation was then introduced in the Senate and the House to improve our health care.
In addition, Sen. Rounds requested an audit of the financial aspects of hospital and health care, medical services and overall financial management at IHS.
A 2010 investigation held then-Sen. Dorgan revealed that the IHS has been mismanaged by officials including Michael Weahkee, Chris Buchanan and Kevin Meeks, who worked for IHS from 2002 to 2010 when the same problems we are still dealing with now were identified. The only difference is it has become worse. Is Charles Grim, the director of Indian Health Service from 2002 to 2007, being pushed even though he was part of Dorgan's report?
In October 2017, Robert Weaver was nominated to be director of IHS. He has received support from tribes through organizations such as Coalition of Large Tribes that consists of 13 of the largest tribes in Arizona, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming; the Great Plains Tribal Chairman's Association that consists of 16 tribes in Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota; the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leader Association that consists of 10 tribes in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming; and organizations and individual tribes in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and Louisiana.
IHS leadership has now decided to replace the Rosebud emergency room contract and award it to John Shufeldt, the chief executive officer and chief medical officer of Tribal Emergency Medicine (don’t let the name fool you, not one Native owns the business).
Shufeldt founded NextCare, an Arizona-based company, in 1993. NextCare has agreed in the past to pay $10 million to settle federal and state allegations for submitting false claims to Medicare, TRICARE and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, as well as Medicaid programs in Colorado, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina and Arizona.
So where is our health care now? No legislation has been passed, no director and things have gotten worse not better.