TUBA CITY, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation president and vice president were on hand in Tuba City to address concerns from the public about how health care is delivered and problems with the Indian Health Services (IHS).
The Navajo Department of Health (NDOH) and the Office of the President and Vice President (OPVP) facilitated the public forum, which was held at the Tuba City Chapter House July 13 from 5-9 p.m.
“There are concerns at the U.S. Senate level over Indian Health Services,” Begaye said. “A recent Wall Street Journal investigation explored national IHS facilities and cited failed inspections, shut down of services and losses of federal funds.”
Begaye asked the attendees to present their concerns and experiences with the existing Navajo health care delivery system.
“We need to assess where we are and where we need to go from here,” he said.
Across the Navajo Nation there are five service units in Chinle, Crownpoint, Gallup, Kayenta and Shiprock.
There are five tribal contract and compact health organizations. Title V compact health care facilities are the Tuba City Regional Health Care Corp., Winslow Indian Care Center and Utah Navajo Health System. Sage Memorial Hospital in Ganado and Tso Ho Tso Medical Center in Fort Defiance are both Title I contract facilities.
Concerns brought up at the forum included: lack of specialized care causing patients to go elsewhere; Navajo Nation employee’s HMA insurance benefits not able to be billed for usage of IHS facilities; patient wait times; misdiagnosis causing unwarranted amputations, incorrect prescriptions and death; and poor road conditions causing extended wait times for ambulances.
“We’re here today to connect on a grassroots level so that we can take these concerns and present them at the federal level,” said Glorinda Segay director of NDOH. “We are here to assist our people, which is the Navajo way.”
Begaye told the attendees that he was notified recently that he will serve on a committee put together by Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price, which will provide Begaye an opportunity to communicate issues that are raised on the Navajo Nation directly to HHS.
“We need to make sure that we are addressing improvements to health services on the Navajo Nation and these hearings are providing the map to guide improvements,” Begaye said. “Our facilities are underfunded, understaffed and need permanent providers. We are doing a lot but we need to do more. That’s why we are here today.”
More public forums addressing Navajo health care delivery systems will be forthcoming and facilitated throughout the service unit areas.