Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law - University of Tulsa College of Law
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Health | Opinion
Yvette Roubideaux: Restoring our patients' trust in IHS system


"When I was appointed as the director of the Indian Health Service last year, I received a significant call for change from our patients, tribes and IHS staff. Many were concerned we were not hiring the most qualified people or that we were not addressing problems with poor performing managers and employees. I can understand how these types of concerns make our patients distrustful of our staff and the services we provide. These are not new issues; I remember my relatives talking about concerns about the quality of the IHS personnel even when I was a teenager.

However, we are now trying to address these concerns through our IHS reform efforts. We are beginning to hold poor performing employees and managers more accountable and are implementing specific activities to improve our customer service. We also will be doing more to help our patients and our tribes understand what we are doing to ensure that we have high-quality staff and providers.

We have a number of procedures in place for our hiring process, such as background and reference checks, to ensure we are hiring the right people. Our credentialing and privileging process for providers is designed to ensure that we hire health care providers with the required qualifications and licenses. Since having an unrestricted license is a condition of employment, we also check all physician licenses before we even interview applicants.

Also, in order for our health facilities to achieve national accreditation, they must demonstrate that they meet national standards for hiring health care providers. All of our IHS facilities are currently accredited, which means they have demonstrated they do have procedures in place to ensure we hire qualified health care providers.

Even with all these checks in place, mistakes have unfortunately been made. The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is investigating possible mismanagement in the IHS Aberdeen Area, and has identified a few instances of retention of providers with expired licenses and the hiring of individuals who have been identified as excluded from federal hire due to past offenses. These practices are unacceptable, and I have recently directed all IHS staff to implement immediate actions to prevent these types of problems from reoccurring."

Get the Story:
Yvette Roubideaux: Restoring our patients’ trust (Indian Country Today 11/15)