Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman Questions Problems at Indian Health Service

Sen. Jon Tester, Chair of the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

Sen. Jon Tester, Chair of the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Jon Tester, chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, is questioning the staff shortages at Indian Health Service at all levels of the agency.

In a tersely written letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, on July 24, 2014, Senator Tester writes he is particularly disturbed by “the number of Area Director positions that are now filled with ‘acting’ Directors.”

Indian Health Service (IHS) is an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Of the twelve Indian Health Service Regions, four now have Acting Area Directors, including the position in Billings, Montana. I have also heard the frustration from the tribes in the Phoenix and Tucson Regions regarding the vacancies in those two regions. These three regions alone represent a significant amount of the IHS service population, writes the senator in the letter.

The ability of these Regions to deliver quality health care to this population is impacted by the kind of leadership they have, and it would appear to me that the Agency is satisfied with temporary leadership. I can assure you that I am not satisfied,” he continues.

Senator Tester recounted some of the testimony heard at a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs field hearing in Billings, Montana earlier this year that “revealed the challenges associated with lack of leadership at the top levels of the agency, including ineffective communication, lack of strategic vision, uncertainty of purpose, and low employee morale.”

Senator Tester’s letter was released to the media earlier this week. At the press time, there has been no response from the Department of Health and Human Services.

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