WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - On April 9, the Health, Education and Human Services Committee (HEHSC) approved legislation to suppport funding for the construction of a new Gallup Indian Medical Center by the United States Department of Health and Human Services and Indian Health Services (IHS).
Legislation sponsor Council Delegate Edmund Yazzie (Churchrock, Iyanbito, Mariano Lake, Pinedale, Smith Lake, Thoreau) said the goal of the legislation is to bring all entities together to begin securing money.
"I just ask the committee [for] their support on this, so I can get everybody to the table and start talking. I am open to directives. I want everybody to have their input," Yazzie said.
Built in the 1950s, Gallup Indian Medical Center is in Gallup, N.M. and is one of the largest IHS facilities in the country.
HEHSC Chair Council Delegate Jonathan Hale (Oak Springs, St. Michaels) proposed an amendment to change language to distinguish between out-patient and in-patient facilities, in accordance with the Navajo Nation priority listing.
"It is basically giving the authority to [President Ben Shelly] and myself, to advocate for new construction dollars, as it relates to new in-patient facilities in accordance with the Navajo Nation priority listing," Hale said.
Out-patient clinics are used for diagnosis or treatment. In-patient facilities are hospitals that house admitted patients.
The amendment passed with a 3-0 vote.
Jenny Notah with the IHS Navajo Area Office said the medical center is one of three projects on the in-patient listing for the IHS facility construction priority list.
The Healthcare Facilities Construction Priority System (HFCPS), which is under the Indian Healthcare Improvement Act, is a system that IHS uses to identify the need for IHS and tribal healthcare facilities. Congress established the system in 1991 to direct IHS to provide a priority list for construction projects.
"Indian Health Services has participated in a number of discussions regarding this project and have been planning for a number of years. The communities are very anxious, as well as the patients, and they are looking forward to having that facility," Notah said.
Yazzie said he is thankful for the hospitals in Crownpoint, Gallup, and Fort Defiance but the gradual "wear and tear" on the current buildings is evident.
"It is going to take teamwork from everyone. We have committees and departments that have presented but it is time we stop talking and actually go to work. We need to finalize a solid plan," Yazzie said.