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Indian Health Service announces more hires at troubled hospital






A view of the Winnebago Hospital on the Winnebago Reservation in Nebraska. Image from Google Maps

The Indian Health Service announced more hires at a troubled facility in the Great Plains Area.

The Omaha Winnebago Hospital in Nebraska is seeing eight full-time staff members, the agency said on Tuesday. A new clinical director, medical records administration specialist and medical records technician are coming on board in addition to hires in nursing, pharmacy, patient transportation and computer-based clinical health applications.

“These hires demonstrate IHS’ continued commitment to providing high quality patient care,” Chris Buchanan, the new acting director of the Great Plains Area, said in a press release. “IHS is recruiting highly skilled individuals that bring experience and knowledge, enabling us to carry out our mission of raising the physical, mental, social, and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level.”

The Omaha Winnebago Hospital serves the Omaha Tribe and the Winnebago Tribe. It can no longer bill for Medicaid and Medicare after losing certification from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Service last summer.

The IHS hasn't outlined the steps it is taking to restore certification. But additional staff members were hired in January and March in order to improve the quality of care.

Amid scrutiny of the region, the IHS also removed Ron Cornelius as director of the Great Plains Area ahead of a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing in February. Leaders of the Winnebago Tribe had blamed him for misleading them about the loss of the CMS certification because the agency knew of deficiencies at least a year prior.

Other Great Plains leaders also questioned the move, saying it followed a pattern in which employees were shuffled around the agency in an apparent attempt to avoid accountability.

Kevin Meeks was then brought in as acting director. But he's since returned to his original position in the Oklahoma City Area, hence the appointment of Buchanan as the new acting director.

Buchanan joined the IHS in 1993, according to his biography. He's served in the Albuquerque, Oklahoma City and Phoenix area offices and currently holds the title of director of the Office of Direct Services and Contracting Tribes in Rockville, Maryland.

Government Accountability Office Report:
INDIAN HEALTH SERVICE: Actions Needed to Improve Oversight of Patient Wait Times (April 29, 2016)

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Report:
In Critical Condition: The urgent need to reform the Indian Health Service’s Aberdeen Area (December 2010)

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