Nation moves quickly towards Self-governance

Geneva HorseChief-HamiltonOsage Nation Communications

The Osage Nation’s Indian Health Service Transition Team is making aggressive strides towards an Oct. 1 opening day for the first ever Osage Nation managed health care facility. Key positions including Chief Medical Officer, Clinic Manager, and a Credentialing Officer are now being advertised. The Pawhuska Indian Healthcare Center will continue to operate as a federally managed IHS facility until Sept.30.

The Transition Team is working on the final details to complete the process. The team meets weekly to update progress and to hold discussions with Travis Scott, IHS Pawnee Service Unit, CEO. They will continue to meet for several months to ensure the billing processes; third party billing; staffing; equipment; and pharmacy services are operating properly for effective patient care.

Tribal self-governance allows Indian nations to determine the types of services they want to offer and full management and quality control. According to the IHS self-governance website, “…tribal leaders and members are in the best position to understand the health care needs and priorities of their communities.”

“Providing our [Osage] citizens with quality healthcare is a Health Authority Board priority. We want to ensure that Osage people will achieve an optimal level of health. By coordinating services that are rendered by individualized programs we can ensure that we have quality comprehensive care,” said Margie Burkhart, Osage Nation Health Authority Board Chairperson.

“I honestly believe [self-governance] will be better for [Osage people],” said Scott Johnson, Osage Nation Human Resource Director. Johnson is on the Transition Team and has been navigating the complicated hiring process for the Nation. “Our goal is to get the best care possible and we need to look at all our options to do that.”

The current IHS facility has a staff that includes U.S. Public Health Service Officers and Indian Health Services civil service employees. The Nation is coordinating federal employee agreements and advertising new positions in order to be a fully staffed clinic on opening day. “There are a lot of good and qualified people,” said Johnson about the opportunity to work with current staff.

The Nation has been trying to compact the current IHS facility in Pawhuska since 2008, said Osage Nation Congressman Ron Shaw. Shaw sponsored a resolution during a Special Session the second week of July, Osage Nation Congressional Resolution 15-18, “…a resolution to approve and authorize the execution of a self-governance compact and funding agreement between the Osage Nation and the federal government.”

ONCR 15-18 passed unanimously and several members of Congress spoke in favor of the resolution. Shaw has been a staunch supporter and strong proponent for self-governance since the conversation started in 2008.

Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear signed the resolution into law on July 16. The Chief signed the compact on July 27 following a thorough review and it will be finalized when it is signed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Shaw credits support from the Chief for getting this far in the transition. Standing Bear has made healthcare and education top priorities for his administration. In his Executive Message on July 13 at the start of the Special Session, he urged Congress to approve the self-governance resolution and also spoke about the healthcare needs of the Osage people and specifically the healthcare needs of children, “…the same experts who we have listened to about education for our youth have stressed the absolute necessity of being aggressive in making sure our youth receive healthy and nutritious food and drink at school and in the home [and] that the children receive the best medical care possible…”

Self-governance will provide the Nation the opportunity to address critical health issues affecting the Osage people. Chairman Burkhart said, “I would like to see increased efforts focused on prevention in our communities…Native Americans experience higher rates of obesity, cancer, and diabetes than the general population. I believe that prevention should be woven into all aspects of everyday life. I believe that prevention should start with prenatal care and continue throughout all stages of life.”

Many other Native American nations in Oklahoma have already compacted including the Absentee Shawnee in Oklahoma. Their state-of-the-art facility is tailored to the unique needs of their Native and non-Native community. According to their website the services offered there include an emergency ambulatory service, obstetrics and gynecology, injury prevention, transportation, podiatry, family practice and public WiFi among several other services.

Go to ihs.gov/self-governance for more information about Title V Self-Governance Compacting.