Senate Indian Affairs Committee launches investigation of IHS

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee has launched an investigation into the Indian Health Service and agreed to the use of subpoenas to obtain information from the agency.

The investigation centers on the Aberdeen Area and the Quentin N. Burdick Memorial Hospital, located on the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reservation in North Dakota. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), the chairman of the committee, said leadership problems and management issues have contributed to an interruption of care of 270 days over the last three years.

"I know that there are some great employees, doing really important work in the Aberdeen Area and the entire Indian health system. We are all thankful for their dedication.” Dorgan said. “However, over the past four years we have been aware of and attempted to force the IHS to deal with very serious cases of mismanagement, malfeasance, retaliation against whistleblowers as well as potential criminal behavior in the Aberdeen Area. Still, our efforts haven’t resulted in the changes that are necessary."

At a business meeting this morning, Dorgan was prepared to issue a subpoena as part of the investigation. However, he agreed to give the IHS until July 28 to produce the documents he has been seeking.

"Hopefully, we won't have to issue the subpoena and the Indian Health Service will comply with your document request," said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), the vice chairman, at the meeting.

"This has been a chronic problem and we're not just going to sit back and watch it anymore without being active," Dorgan added.

Dorgan said Yvette Roubideaux, the new director of the IHS, has cooperated with the probe. She has launched her own investigation, he said.

Committee Notices:
BUSINESS MEETING on pending committee issues (June 30, 2010)
OVERSIGHT HEARING on A Way Out of the Diabetes Crisis in Indian Country and Beyond (June 30, 2010)

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Agenda for Senate Indian Affairs Committee business meeting (6/29)