Indian Health Service Loses Equipment At Alarming Rate

The Associated Press reports that "the Indian Health Service is continuing to lose equipment at an alarming rate despite efforts to better account for the agency's property, according to congressional investigators. In a report issued Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office said the government agency lost about 1,400 items worth $3.5 million between October 2007 and January 2009 — including $37,000 in lab equipment at a Navajo health care facility and a $7,300 trailer in Nashville, Tenn. Those losses came after an estimated $15.8 million in equipment was unaccounted for between the 2004 and 2007 budget years. Those losses were reported by the GAO in June 2008, when investigators also charged that the Indian Health Service had falsified documents to cover up some of the missing property."

The GAO said the agency "has failed to implement most of its recommendations from last year or hold staff accountable for losses," according to the AP. Meanwhile, "Indian Health Service spokesman Thomas Sweeney said the agency is implementing a more effective electronic property tracking system that will be able to find equipment that was previously reported as lost — often because it was being used in a remote location."

The agency is part of the Department of Health and Human Services and is responsible for delivering health care on Indian reservations. The AP notes that the agency "is already drastically underfunded, and officials estimate they have about half of what they need to operate" (Jalonick, 6/3).

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