Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Thu, June 24

Hopi Health Care Center staff dedicated to serving patients

Hopi Health Care Center continues to provide testing and vaccinations at  the hospital and in the villages. (Photo/Indian Health Service)

Hopi Health Care Center continues to provide testing and vaccinations at the hospital and in the villages. (Photo/Indian Health Service)

POLACCA, Ariz. — Hopi Health Care Center (HHCC) continues to provide COVID-19 testing on a daily basis, vaccination clinics at least once every week and Community Vaccination Events (CVE) in several Hopi villages to increase vaccination rates.

Mose Herne, CEO at Hopi Health Care Center, said the center has been fortunate to have some of the most dedicated, talented and compassionate staff in the Indian Health Service (IHS) system.

“Although staff turnover is a routine challenge, we did not lose an appreciable number of staff during the pandemic,” he said

Herne said HHCC hired an additional 35 temporary employees to assist with their pandemic response, mainly healthcare providers, nurses, clinical laboratory scientists, pharmacists and facilities, housekeeping and security staff.

During the pandemic, the state of Arizona established the “AZ Hospital Surge Line” to assist hospitals and clinics throughout the state to coordinate the transfer of patients who needed a higher level of care.

“It was truly a heroic and humanitarian partnership as hospitals across the Arizona hospital network worked together to assure beds were available when needed, especially at peak surges of community spread. Our patients were transferred to many hospitals across the state of Arizona and even into New Mexico,” Herne said.

A supportive community

“Several Hopi youth created posters expressing gratitude for our healthcare “heroes,” large signs expressing appreciation for all first responders line Highway 264 and many community members posted their appreciation for health care workers on Facebook,” he said.

The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act included $1 billion in funding for IHS, tribal, and urban Indian health programs to prepare for, respond to and recover from COVID-19. This act was the fifth round of supplemental COVID-19 funding. HHCC received some of these funds for its work on COVID 19.

U.S. President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 into law. This Act included $6 billion for the IHS.

The resources included in this bill helped IHS, tribal, and urban Indian health programs combat COVID-19, expand services and recover critical revenues to better serve American Indian and Alaska Native communities.

The Hopi Health Care Center received additional funds from these Acts that has helped to defray the additional costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic response and mitigation.

HHCC offers training for those in health care field

Herne said for the past 19 years, the Hopi Health Care Center has administered the Indigenous Pride Health Worker (IPHW) Program. IPHW is an intensive summer program for high school students entering their junior and senior year and recent high school graduates who have a serious interest in pursuing an education and career in the health care field.

Herne said IPHW is a challenging academic/professional enrichment program designed to introduce local youth to careers in the health care field by exploring health professions and developing the confidence and skills necessary to become successful health care professionals.

IPHW has hosted approximately 225 student mentees within all nursing departments, medical staff, radiology, pharmacy, dental, physical therapy, optometry and public health education.

He said the ultimate goal for IPHW is to get local Hopi and Tewa students ready for college and careers in the health care field, enable them to be successful in their professional endeavors and ultimately return to their home community as health care providers and allied health staff.

Herne said vaccines are their top priority in COVID-19 prevention and spread, including the importance of minimizing community spread and the potential for viral mutations or variants.

Herne said the Hopi Health Care Center Emergency Department and Inpatient Department have remained open and fully operational for the duration of the pandemic, as well as their laboratory, pharmacy and radiology departments.

“Our Outpatient Department operated at 25 percent face-to-face patient visits and recently increased to 50 percent, with the remainder of visits being conducted telephonically,” he said. “Other departments, such as optometry, dental and physical therapy remained open but saw patients based on clinical urgency and on an emergent basis. Staff and patient safety was priority number one from the start of the pandemic.”

Hopi Health Care response to COVID-19 pandemic

“We would be remiss if we did not express our gratitude for our Tribal partners’ contributions,” Herne said. “Tribal leadership made aggressive policy decisions that helped mitigate the spread of COVID-19 throughout the villages. The Hopi Incident Management Authority, Hopi Emergency Response and Community Emergency Response Teams worked hand in glove with the Hopi Health Care Center to perform large-scale testing events, contact tracing, public health messaging to the community and when vaccines were available mass vaccination events.”

Herne said early on, the Hopi Tribe also reached out to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for technical assistance with disease surveillance, infection control techniques and planning for eventual re-opening.

“The successful pandemic response on Hopi was the result of strong partnerships between the Hopi Tribe, IHS and the CDC,” he said.

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