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Indian Health Service letter

September 30, 2010 The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius                                                                                                     Secretary                                                                                         

September 30, 2010
The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius                                                                                                    
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20201

Mr. Jeffery Zients
Acting Director
Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC  20503

Dear Madam Secretary and Mr. Zients:
As members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, we are writing to express our deep concern regarding misconduct within the Indian Health Service (IHS).  As you know, the Committee on Indian Affairs has had an ongoing investigation of the Indian Health Service’s Aberdeen Area.  The Committee’s investigation revealed serious deficiencies in management, employee accountability, financial integrity, and oversight of the Aberdeen facilities.  Specific examples include missing and stolen narcotics, misuse of contract health service funds, health care provider practicing with expired licensures, and excessive use of administrative leave.  These problems have a detrimental impact on patient health care and are an unacceptable use of federal dollars.

We believe that the problems exposed in the Committee’s investigation may not be unique to the Aberdeen area.  For this reason, we respectfully request that your offices coordinate to pursue comprehensive investigations of potential substandard health care services and mismanagement in all IHS-operated facilities in the following areas: Alaska, Aberdeen, Albuquerque, Billings, Phoenix, Oklahoma, Navajo, Nashville, California, Portland, Tucson, and Bemidji.  These investigations will enable our Committee to understand the problems across the Indian health system and take the necessary steps to address them. 

In these challenging fiscal times, we must do all we can to ensure that federal dollars are used wisely and effectively.  We appreciate your prompt attention to these concerns and look forward to working together as you pursue investigations into the other IHS areas.