US Congressional Committee Plans IHS Hearings In June

May 31, 2016

 Indian Health Service facilities in Pine Ridge and Rosebud were closed earlier.  The move comes alongside allegations the IHS facilities are failing to meet basic standards of service and care. Now, the U-S Senate Committee for Indian Affairs is planning a hearing in South Dakota in June.  

Both U.S. Senator John Thune and U.S. Senator Mike Rounds are taking part in the US Senate Committee field hearing next month. The hearings focus on the IHS Accountability Act sponsored by Senator John Thune.  He says any lasting solutions in the Native American health care crisis need to involve input from tribal members.

“There’s no better place to learn about the challenges facing tribal members than in an area that’s been plagued by literally one IHS disaster after another," says Thune. "And so I look forward to participating in that hearing, learning more from our tribal members first hand, and it will continue to shape the approach that we take legislatively." 

Thune says the legislation increases the accountability of the IHS.

Local government officials like State Senator Troy Heinert from Rosebud say the hearings can help officials to better understand the ongoing problems with the Indian Health Service.  But Heinert is concerned this hearing will not lead to real solutions to this problem.

“What I’m worried about, is that nothing is ever done. Because we’ve been saying these things, like I said, for twenty years. It’s just consistently went further and further downhill.  With the closure of the ER, they opened the urgent care and that is working very well. But with the closure of the ER, that puts our people in life and death situations they wouldn’t normally be in. But we’re so understaffed, we can’t compete financially and that really lies in the halls of congress. Sequestration really hurt IHS,” says Heinert.

Heinert says current congressional proposals might help the crisis. But he says proper funding is still a major issue.  He says lawmakers still need to seek deeper solutions and all-inclusive reforms.  

Friday, June 17: 

What: Field Hearing on the IHS Accountability Act

When: 10.30 a.m. MDT

Where: Central High School Auditorium, 433 Mt. Rushmore Rd. Rapid City, SD