WINDOW ROCK — The Navajo Nation Council debated Legislation on the third day of the Fall Council Session, which sought to approve matching funds in the amount of $8 million from the Síhasin Fund to aid in completing a proposed Chinle nursing home.
According to the legislation, in December 2015 the Navajo Housing Authority awarded Navajoland Nursing Home, Inc. approximately $21.5 million to plan, design, and construct a new nursing home, which funds nearly 75 percent of the entire project’s planning and construction costs. The proposed allocation of $8 million from the Síhasin Fund would fund the remaining 25 percent to complete the care center.
The legislation states the existing nursing home was constructed in 1968 and has 79 beds, but does not meet the Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services federal requirements and is fined annually for the lack of compliance. The proposed new nursing center would have as many as 120 beds and would be a three-story building with updated technological capabilities.
Council Delegate Leonard Pete (Chinle), legislation co-sponsor, said the nursing home facility would allow Navajo elders and families throughout the Navajo Nation to be cared for near their home areas on Navajo land.
Pete added that the nursing home would not just serve Navajo elderly, but it also would provide care services for individuals with severe physical disabilities who need 24-hour assistance.
In opposition of the legislation, Council Delegate Leonard Tsosie (Baca/Prewitt, Casamero Lake, Counselor, Littlewater, Ojo Encino, Pueblo Pintado, Torreon, Whitehorse Lake) said the Síhasin Fund Subcommittee, who oversees funding proposals that seek to utilize the fund, did not vet the proposal for the nursing home.
“We are setting a dangerous precedent of ignoring the subcommittee, whose direction we gave to set up a process. So we have a couple of delegates telling us, ‘the heck with the process, we’ll just push this through because nobody is going to vote no, because this is for our elders.’ I intend to vote against this. You might label me as being anti-elder, well then so be it, but I would put my record up of helping elders against any of you,” Tsosie said.
In addition to the Síhasin Fund Subcommittee not vetting the proposal, Tsosie said the allocation by NHA was not NAHASDA funds, rather it came from the rent and house payments made to NHA by its Navajo customers, and stressed that those payments are not meant for projects like the proposed nursing home.
In support of the legislation, Council Delegate Jonathan Hale (Oak Springs, St. Michaels) said the proposed Chinle nursing home does not only benefit the area, but it is open to all Navajo citizens throughout the Navajo Nation that prefer their family members are provided treatment and care on Navajo land.
A directive was recommended by Council Delegate Seth Damon (Bááháálí, Chichiltah, Manuelito, Tsé Lichíí’, Rock Springs, Tsayatoh), who suggested that the Division of Economic Development work with the Navajo Area Agency on Aging to develop nursing home proposals in each agency to be proposed to the Síhasin Fund Subcommittee.
Council members voted 15-4 to pass the directive.
Council members voted 14-6 on Legislation No. 0324-16, which failed to pass because the bill required two-thirds or 16 votes.