Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, Washington, column: IHS makes progress on needed improvementsThe problems found in the investigation by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs last year are unacceptable, and IHS is committed to addressing them. I have set a strong tone from the top that we will take action, and have implemented performance management changes for leadership accountability.
By Yvette Roubideaux
WASHINGTON — The Herald story, “N.D. Sen. Conrad puts director of Indian Health Service ‘on notice’ during meeting,” did not include the many corrective actions taken to date to improve the operation and service delivery of the Indian Health Service’s Aberdeen Area (Page A1, March 30).
As a South Dakota native, an enrolled member of the Rosebud Tribe and a former IHS patient in Rapid City, S.D., I care deeply about these issues.
The problems found in the investigation by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs last year are unacceptable, and IHS is committed to addressing them. I have set a strong tone from the top that we will take action, and have implemented performance management changes for leadership accountability.
I have made it clear to all employees that we will take action — no excuses. A corrective action plan has been in place throughout the Aberdeen Area since the report.
Significant progress has been made in improved financial management, employee performance and accountability, customer service, pharmacy security and oversight of controlled substances.
After the Senate hearing on the investigation, I implemented immediate actions throughout the IHS to address the identified problems in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs report.
For example, a new system is in place throughout the IHS to ensure that no employees and new hires are on the Office of Inspector General exclusion list (individuals excluded for hire due to past offenses).
At that time, I required staff to check all 16,000 current IHS employees, and there currently are no IHS employees on the OIG exclusion list, including in the Aberdeen Area.
These types of actions will help regain the trust of our patients in the IHS employees who serve them.
Evaluations already are under way of the other 11 IHS Area offices to check whether any of the deficiencies found in the Aberdeen Area exist elsewhere in our system.
We cannot fix some of these longstanding issues overnight, but already through reviews, new policies, improvement activities, employee training, more aggressive oversight and performance accountability, improvements are in place in all eight Aberdeen service units.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services established in 2010 a high-level task force on Aberdeen Area program integrity that has made solid long-term recommendations to improve quality of care, human resources and financial management.
We have moved ahead with actions that will bring improvements to our future delivery of quality health care.
The Aberdeen Area’s hospitals and clinics actively and aggressively are engaged in training, monitoring and improvement programs to provide quality health care.
This includes ensuring that all of the area’s health care providers have proper professional credentialing.
We also are ensuring that the stringent health facility accreditation standards are in place in all area facilities and that any necessary corrective action programs are in place. The national IHS Improving Patient Care program is active in the Aberdeen Area to strengthen the coordination of care that patients receive from various health teams.
Despite the many challenges we face with historic underfunding and difficulties recruiting much-needed health care providers to the Aberdeen Area’s remote health facilities, the IHS is firmly committed to improving the Aberdeen Area for the direct benefit of the patients we serve.
President Barack Obama and his administration believe strongly in honoring treaty obligations and ensuring that quality health care is provided to American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Dr. Roubideaux is director of the Indian Health Service.