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November 22, 2017 06:32 AM

Rounds Calls For External Audit Of Indian Health Services

By Alexandra Limon

Washington, D.C.

From Indian Health Services emergency rooms that have been shut down because they pose a threat to the health and safety of patients to others that don't meet the requirements established by Medicare and Medicaid, Sen. Mike Rounds says the health system is a disaster.

"We have people dying in emergency rooms, we have people dying in the hospitals, without anybody there.  We have babies being born in bathroom floors in those locations," Rounds said.

Rounds has introduced a bill called the "Independent Outside Audit Of The Indian Health Service Act Of 2017." It would create an external review process similar to what's now required of VA health centers by the Department of Veterans Affairs. David Flute of the Great Plains Tribal Chairman's Health Board testified at the U.S. Senate hearing on the bill.

"The Indian health service is failing us," Flute said. "And failing to meet that treaty obligation. We are not getting the quality service that we need. We're not getting the transparency that we're asking for. We're not getting the financial accountability."

Rounds worries IHS failures are making people's health problems worse. He says Native Americans in the region have a life expectancy that's 10 years shorter than in anywhere else in the country.

"This particular area has the highest rate of diabetes, the highest rate of TB," Rounds said.

The senator also says IHS has been resistant to the idea of an external audit. Elizabeth Fowler, deputy director of management operations at IHS, says the organization has made improvements over the past year

But Fowler admits there are ongoing issues. She also says the agency doesn't have the budget to pay for an independent audit. 

Rounds says the areas that need to be fixed include how to allocate funding to the 12 IHS regions, better standard of quality measurements, and lowering the turnover rate.

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