WINNEBAGO, Neb. — The Winnebago Tribe has taken over the management of a troubled hospital on its reservation in northeastern Nebraska.
The Tribal Council officially took control of the embattled Winnebago hospital from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Indian Health Services division on Sunday, the Sioux City Journal reported. It will be renamed Twelve Clans Unity Hospital and operate under the newly established Winnebago Comprehensive Healthcare System, which oversees all the tribes' health clinics and services.
The 13-bed hospital provides free health care to about 10,000 Native Americans enrolled as members of the Winnebago, Omaha, Santee Sioux and Ponca tribes, as well as others. It offers inpatient hospital care, a clinic, emergency services, a pharmacy, radiology and other services.
The Winnebago Tribe will now be responsible for allocating the hospital's federal funding, hiring staff and selecting providers, said Tribal Councilwoman Victoria Kitcheyan.
"The beauty of it is being able to redesign and reprogram those dollars to best fit the needs of the patients," she said.
Kitcheyan called the transition a new beginning for the hospital.
The change comes more than two years after the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services terminated the hospital's Medicare contract after Indian Health Service, along with hospital officials, failed to correct serious quality-of-care deficiencies the agency had found.
The hospital found in August 2017 that it may have inadvertently infected up to 35 podiatry patients with diseases, including HIV and hepatitis. Critics have also blamed hospital issues for multiple misdiagnoses and preventable deaths.
Danelle Smith, the tribe's legal counsel, said the tribe was working to fully staff the facility and eventually add services.
"The tribe's vision is to provide high-quality comprehensive health care for our patients, and it's not going to happen overnight," she said. "But we are going to work hard every day toward that goal."