Health and Human Services Committee says regulation needed for medical transport services

T" NANEES DIZ', Ariz. - The Health, Education and Human Services Committee on the Navajo Nation said that with legislation regulating medical transport on the Navajo Nation is needed to ensure the safety of the Navajo people.

The committee received a report Dec. 16 about non-emergency medical transport companies operating on the Nation and concerns raised by Navajo-owned transport companies and Navajo citizents.

Council Delegate Tuchoney Slim, Jr. (Bodaway/Gap, Coppermine, K'ai'Bii'To, LeChee, Tonalea/Red Lake) provided the report along with Priscilla Tallman, a Navajo citizen who operates the "Navajo Express" medical transport company in the Tuba City area.

Slim said that non-Navajo non-emergency medical transport companies are affecting Navajo transport businesses. There were reports of non-Navajo transport drivers who claimed to have a partnership with Navajo companies in order to avoid applying for necessary licenses with the Navajo Nation.

"Navajo transport businesses are being threatened by outside entities," Slim said. "Currently, Navajo business owners are part of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System program, which pays the owners to transport patients to clinics and hospitals, but outside companies are not being regulated and have increasingly begun to affect Navajo businesses."

According to the report, there is currently no policy or law that exists to regulate non-emergency medical transport businesses on the Navajo Nation. Other transport drivers and Navajo people have reported illegal driving behavior, like speeding and reckless driving, and there have been reports of questionable maintenance of transport vehicles as well, Slim said.

HEHSC vice chair Council Delegate Norman M. Begay (Alamo, Ramah, Tóhajiilee) said he has received several complaints from his constituents regarding reckless driving of transport companies and the insurability of the vehicles.

"In New Mexico, there have been instances in which transport companies are either uninsured or are using their personal insurance and are not bonded - this is unacceptable," Begay said. "The question now is how do we stop this?"

Council Delegate Otto Tso (Tó Nanees Dizí) suggested to committee members that they begin drafting policies and regulations to address the issues with the medical transport companies.

"We need to regulate these businesses on the Navajo Nation," he said. "The safety of our Navajo people is very important and we need to monitor their services and driving. We need to begin holding these transport companies accountable and hold them to higher standards."

Tso said it was also important that transport drivers begin carrying credentials and proper uniform attire to identify themselves to their customers, and show proof of licenses, insurance and that they are bonded. He added that they should also be required to possess basic first-aid skills such as CPR.

Slim said he would sponsor legislation to enforce regulation of non-emergency medical transport companies and their drivers to ensure safety of Navajo citizens, and to promote the growth of Navajo-owned transport businesses on the Navajo Nation.

HEHSC members voted 4-0 to accept the report.

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