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Bipartisan E&C Leaders Request Briefing on Systemic Failures at Indian Health Service Hospitals

Mar 7, 2019
Press Release

A bipartisan group of Energy and Commerce leaders sent a letter to Indian Health Service (IHS) Acting Director Rear Admiral Michael D. Weahkee today requesting a briefing on reported medical errors and systemic failures at IHS hospitals, the corrective actions taken to date, and an update on the agency’s strategy to ensure improvements at IHS facilities nationwide. The request comes after investigations by the Wall Street Journal and Frontline PBS, and by the Sioux Falls Argus Leader into IHS.

The letter was signed by Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR), Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO), Oversight and Investigations Ranking Member Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA) and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK).

“We have serious concerns about the apparent failure of IHS to provide quality health care services to the American Indians it serves, in the Great Plains Area and elsewhere,” the Committee leaders wrote. “Stopping these deplorable conditions and ensuring the safety and well-being of those who entrust IHS with their health care needs must be the top priority of your agency.  Despite repeated investigations by Congress, and other federal watchdog agencies, these recent press reports indicate that patient care does not seem to be improving at these IHS-operated hospitals.  We must find a way forward to protect IHS patients so that all American Indians and Alaska Natives receive the best care possible.”

Last month, the Wall Street Journal and Frontline PBS reported that, for more than two decades, IHS employed a physician who sexually abused children who were his patients, and that IHS repeatedly missed or ignored warning signs and tried to silence whistleblowers about the physician. In December, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader published an article detailing numerous medical failures persisting at the Pine Ridge IHS hospital and Rosebud IHS hospital in South Dakota, despite repeated warnings from federal watchdogs. The Committee leaders are requesting a briefing on the troubling reports’ findings, as well as requesting that IHS provide information on how Congress can help the agency improve quality of care for the approximately 2.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives that it serves.

The letter is available HERE