Sen. Rounds seeks support for audit into Indian Health Service

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota), third from left, met with leaders of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in Washington, D.C., on February 4, 2016, to discuss Indian Health Service issues. Photo from Facebook

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota) is asking the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to support his request for a system-wide audit of the Indian Health Service.

Rounds, a first-term member of Congress, said tribal leaders have helped identify a series of issues that need improvement at the IHS. Administrative management, financial management and quality of care are the over-arching concerns.

"In the Great Plains Area – particularly in South Dakota – the failings of the IHS have reached a crisis level," Rounds said in a press release. "Tribal members are literally dying due to inadequate care."

Rounds laid out his request for the audit in a letter to Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), the chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. He included a resolution passed by the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association that calls on the Government Accountability Office to investigate the IHS.

"The inadequate quality of health care in the Great Plains Region has resulted in actual genocide of our tribal members, who suffer from the highest diabetes death rates, the highest tuberculosis death rates, higher incidences of other diseases than mainstream America, and the lowest life expectancy among all IHS regions in the United States and mainstream America, itself," the April 15 resolution reads.

Indianz.Com SoundCloud: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Hearing May 11, 2016. Comments by Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota) about the Indian Health Service can be found in Track 1, Opening Statements.

In February, Barrasso's committee held a hearing and listening session to look into the "substandard" quality of care within the Great Plains Area of the IHS, a region that includes Nebraska and South Dakota. One hospital in the region already lost certification from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Service and two others were threatened with the same until improvement agreements were reached at the last minute.

The loss of CMS certification means the IHS cannot bill Medicare and Medicaid for patient care at the Winnebago Service Unit in Nebraska. The hospital there serves the Omaha Tribe and the Winnebago Tribe.

"It's been said in my community that the Winnebago Hospital is the only place you can legally kill an Indian," Victoria Kitcheyan, the treasurer for the Winnebago Tribe, told the committee in February. She said the CMS identified instances in which five people died "unnecessarily."

"It's 2016 and our people are still suffering at the hands of the federal government," Kitcheyan said.

Although the IHS was able to prevent the CMS from terminating certification at the Rosebud Service Unit, the emergency room at the hospital has been placed on diversion since December. Since then, six members of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe have died while being transported to urgent care centers up to 55 miles away.

"Six families are left wondering whether their loved ones would be alive today if the IHS had not failed in its responsibility to provide safe and quality care," Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota) said at a committee hearing on an unrelated matter on Wednesday. "This is a disgrace."

As of Wednesday, Thune said the emergency room has been shut down for 158 days. The IHS has indicated that the diversion will last at least through the early summer.

The IHS also reached an agreement with CMS to prevent the loss of certification at the Pine Ridge Service Unit in South Dakota, which serves the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

Government Accountability Office Report:
INDIAN HEALTH SERVICE: Actions Needed to Improve Oversight of Patient Wait Times (April 29, 2016)

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Report:
In Critical Condition: The urgent need to reform the Indian Health Service’s Aberdeen Area (December 2010)

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
Mike Myers: Indian Health Service carries out cultural colonization (05/09)
Lakota Country Times: Rosebud Sioux Tribe sues IHS over shutdown (05/06)
Sen. Rounds to seek system-wide review of Indian Health Service (05/05)
Indian Health Service reaches agreements for troubled facilities (05/02)
Indian Health Service faulted for lengthy waits in patient care (04/29)
Rosebud Sioux Tribe sues Indian Health Service over 'crisis' in care (04/28)
John Thune: Tribal citizens suffer at hands of Indian Health Service (04/27)
Rosebud Sioux Tribe kept in dark about IHS emergency room contract (04/25)
Bill aims to restore some 'RESPECT' in dealings with Native people (04/20)
Indian Health Service seeks new contracts for emergency rooms (04/20)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala leader demands closure of IHS office (04/18)
President of Oglala Sioux Tribe welcomes scrutiny of IHS hospital (04/12)
Indian Health Service sued for patient death in Great Plains Area (04/11)
Mike Rounds: Indian Health Service creates crisis in Great Plains (04/11)
Indian Health Service failing to make progress in troubled region (04/11)
New leader of Indian Health Service promises fixes in Great Plains (04/07)
Indian Health Service recommended hospital executive for DC job (04/07)
New leader of Indian Health Service plans big trip to Great Plains (03/23)
Rosebud Sioux Tribe left 'high and dry' by IHS hospital executive (03/21)
Indian Health Service extends comment period on emergency fund (03/11)
Indian Health Service aims to save certification for troubled facility (03/09)
Mary Smith: Bringing more accountability to Indian Health Service (03/09)
New leader of Indian Health Service to testify about budget request (03/08)
IHS facility on Rosebud Sioux Reservation loses key certification (03/03)
Cherokee Nation citizen Mary Smith to helm Indian Health Service (03/01)
Editorial: Quality of Indian Health Service is a scandal in Montana (02/29)
Mike Myers: Exposing problems at the Indian Homicide Service (02/25)
Rosebud Sioux Tribe frustrated by treatment from HHS agencies (02/17)
Another IHS hospital threatened with loss of Medicare funding (02/16)
Brandon Ecoffey: Treaties guaranteed health care for our people (02/11)
Six of 12 Indian Health Service area directors in 'acting' capacity (02/10)
President Obama seeks another increase for Indian Health Service budget (02/10)
Kristi Noem: Indian Health Service remains in a state of emergency (02/10)
Tribal leaders question management changes at IHS in Great Plains (02/04)
IHS chief medical officer apologizes for comments about newborns (02/04)
Indian Health Service makes changes ahead of big Senate hearing (02/03)
Witness list for Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing into IHS (02/01)
Inspections of IHS facilities in Great Plains turn up big problems (1/28)
Senate committee reschedules IHS hearing and listening session (01/25)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee expands look at substandard IHS (1/22)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee to look at 'substandard' care at IHS in Great Plains (01/12)
Mary Annette Pember: Native women affected by cutbacks at IHS (12/29)
Lakota Country Times: IHS restricts care at Rosebud hospital (12/24)
Nebraska tribes recognized for efforts to hold IHS accountable (09/24)
Tribes in Nebraska demand resignations of senior IHS officials (08/12)
Winnebago Tribe upset with IHS over loss of funds at hospital (8/6)
Winnebago Tribe looking to address deficiencies at IHS hospital (08/05)
Winnebago Tribe hopes to prevent Medicare cutoff at hospital (5/28)
Trending in News
More Headlines