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Indian Health Service Under Investigation

WASHINGTON --- Chairman Byron Dorgan (D-ND), of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, has announced that the Committee has launched an investigation into some very serious issues related to the health care facilities in the Aberdeen Area of the Indian Health Service (IHS). Chairman Dorgan and Vice Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) agreed today to authorize the use of subpoenas, if necessary for the investigation.

“The federal government’s trust responsibility to provide health care services to Native Americans is a top priority. I know that there are some great employees, doing really important work in the Aberdeen Area and the entire Indian health system. We are all thankful for their dedication.” Dorgan said. 

“However, over the past four years we have been aware of and attempted to force the IHS to deal with very serious cases of mismanagement, malfeasance, retaliation against whistleblowers as well as potential criminal behavior in the Aberdeen Area. Still, our efforts haven’t resulted in the changes that are necessary.

“I believe this type of mismanagement in the region over a long period of time has negatively affected health care provided to Native Americans. These problems must be remedied.”

Last week, Dorgan submitted a letter to IHS Director Yvette Roubideaux, initiating a formal investigation into the Aberdeen Area and the Quentin N. Burdick Memorial Hospital located on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in North Dakota. 

In a little over two years, the Quentin Burdick Hospital has had five different CEOs. Due to staffing shortages, there have also been diversions of health services in recent years where patients cannot get the hospital care they need at this facility. Care has been diverted more than 270 days over the past three years. 

Dorgan said that the current IHS Director is fully cooperating with the committee and has launched her own investigation into these issues.

“I appreciate Dr. Roubideaux’s cooperation,” he said.

Dorgan requested the IHS provide documents and information related to the investigation by July 28, 2010. Should the IHS not respond sufficiently and in a timely manner to this written request, the Chairman and Vice Chairman plan to exercise the Committee's ability to issue subpoenas for the information.

The IHS is responsible for fulfilling the federal government’s trust responsibility to provide health care for the members of 565 federally recognized tribes throughout the United States. IHS serves approximately 2 million Indians nationwide including 34,000 Indians living in North Dakota. 

The Aberdeen Area of the IHS includes the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa. There are 48 IHS facilities in the Aberdeen Area.

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