Health Care for Native Americans 'Horrifying'

Advocates tell horror stories at Senate hearing
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 4, 2016 9:36 AM CST
Health Care for Native Americans 'Horrifying'
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., says the health care provided to Native Americans amounts to 'malpractice.'   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

"Don't get sick after June" is a common refrain in the Native American community—mainly because the Indian Health Service federal agency is "severely underfunded," says a rep for an advocacy group, per NBC News. In fact, witnesses at a Senate hearing Wednesday pleading for funds said conditions are so bad that Native Americans are dying before they get the health care they need. Those living on reservations are eligible for free health care from the feds thanks to an 18th-century contract, but because of a lack of funds, health facilities that Native Americans go to are often neglected and filled with poorly trained staff, witnesses say. "What we've found is simply horrifying," Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming said at the hearing. "The information provided to this committee … can be summed up in one word: malpractice."

NBC cites a number of horror stories, including that of a woman who died in the hospital after workers gave her too much medication. "I am not talking about unpainted walls or equipment that is outdated," the niece of the 45-year-old victim said at the hearing. "I am talking about a facility [that] employs emergency room nurses who do not know how to administer such basic drugs as dopamine … (and) an emergency room where defibrillators could not be found." The principal deputy director for the IHS acknowledges there are issues, but he also notes that keeping up services in remote areas is challenging. He says IHS is addressing a number of issues. (Native Americans in California just got their land back 150 years later.)

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