Lakota Nation: Appeals for Health Clinic
As five clinics are planned to being build over the next decade across
Below are extracts of an article written by Megan Myers and published by Argus Leader.com:
The people here who care for the sick amid rural isolation and a deep-rooted poverty that's created Third World health conditions see opportunity in a medical project backed by the wealth of a
The people here on
Sanford Health, already a massive collection of hospitals and clinics spread across four states, plans to use part of the $400 million donated by its namesake philanthropist, T. Denny Sanford, to build a network of pediatric clinics across
Some Native Americans point out that, when it comes to the
Leaders of Pine Ridge's Oglala Sioux Tribe say they will formally apply to be the home of one of the five clinics
"We don't have any plans to do anything of that nature at this point in time," said Dave Link,
That, many Native Americans say, continues a long history of neglect - intended or not.
Federal care on reservations falls short, many Indians say.
As part of treaties signed by Sioux Nation in the late 1800s, the federal government agreed to provide medical care on Indian reservations - care that generally matched the nation's accepted standards. Indian Health Service, a government-run health system, grew out of that and today runs hospitals and clinics on Pine Ridge and most other reservations.
But critics and many within the bureaucracy have long complained that IHS is woefully underfunded, the simple result of Native Americans falling low on lawmakers' priority lists. IHS spends about $2,100 per patient annually, while Medicare, the federal health plan for American's senior citizens, pays almost $8,000 per patient, according to the government's own statistics. Medicaid, the state-federal coverage for the poor, spends nearly $4,500 per patient.
The result: Constant turnover among IHS doctors and nurses, understaffed hospitals, sparse specialty care and long waits to see a doctor.
A need to add clinics, reduce waits for medical help.
Such is the case on most of
That all converges to create higher-than-average rates of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and infectious disease. In 2005, for example, more than two- thirds of reported gonorrhea cases in
Catherine Looking Elk of Oglala is among the few here who has private health insurance. The 69-year-old school teacher says that affords her prompt care. Without it, she says, she might not get care "unless you're almost dead."
Areas of greatest need might not be good investment
The conditions affect adults and children, and this is an area where youth is in abundance. Children ages 4 to 16 make up 26 percent of
Bolstering care among youth - including preventing drug abuse, smoking and other problems that lead to poor health later - is key.
Based on financial instability of both the reservations and IHS,
Prime population for study, in-school health advice
They've enlisted Bill Pourier, chief executive of the Pine Ridge Indian Health Service service unit, to help.
"We're going to pool some resources together and apply for that," Pourier said.
Planning is in the early stages, but health and tribal leaders on the reservation are crafting a proposal, outlining what they see as an area of obvious need and a population that would provide a mountain of worthy research material for
In addition to opening a pediatric clinic here, Pourier envisions
The proposals are due July 31, and
"They range from very small communities to the very largest of the metro areas of the country," Link said.
'A major contribution to Native American health'
Should all five clinics end up outside South Dakota, as expected, some in Native American health care say pressure should nevertheless stay on Sanford to work more on the reservations.
Individual doctors and nurses from the health system do outreach work and some research in Indian Country, but they are not sweeping efforts on the scale of