Heinrich Condemns Decision To Decrease Essential Services At Acoma-Canoncito-Laguna Hospital In Letter To Indian Health Service

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage Indian Country, Senator Heinrich is urging IHS to reverse the decision and reexamine alternate funding avenues for sustaining vital health care services

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) has sent a letter to Indian Health Service Director Rear Admiral Michael D. Weahkee condemning a recent decision to decrease essential services at the Acoma-Canoncito-Laguna (ACL) Hospital.

The Pueblo of Acoma has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases. Over a matter of weeks, cases on the Pueblo went from zero in September to 100 in early November. With the recent suspension of emergency services and inpatient care at ACL, the community must now drive one hour or longer to hospitals in Grants or Albuquerque that are already reaching capacity.

“ACL’s benefit to the Pueblo of Acoma and the surrounding community cannot be underscored. As the only hospital between Grants and Albuquerque on Interstate-40, ACL serves as a lifeline for the health and safety of this community, which is only amplified during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. I continue to acknowledge and support the Pueblo of Laguna’s right to contract their own health services; however, providing uninterrupted and full capacity hospital services at ACL should remain a top priority for IHS during the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote Heinrich.

Heinrich continued, “As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionally affected tribal communities, in part due to a lack of environmental and public health infrastructure. IHS’ actions with ACL only compound this. In 2019, ACL served 90,000 patients. IHS' actions will now leave many of these patients without the care they need, in the midst of a deadly and vicious pandemic.”

“IHS' lack of appropriate consultations with the Pueblo and the sudden reduction of services is unprincipled and unnecessarily puts lives in tribal communities at risk. I respectfully request that you reverse the decision to suspend emergency services and inpatient care at ACL and I implore you to reexamine alternate funding avenues for sustaining vital healthcare services, including the emergency funding that Congress has allocated to IHS for COVID-19 response,” concluded Heinrich.

Read the full text of the letter below or by clicking here.

Dear Rear Admiral Weahkee,

I write today to condemn the Indian Health Service’s (IHS) decision to decrease essential services at the Acoma-Canoncito-Laguna (ACL) Hospital. ACL’s benefit to the Pueblo of Acoma and the surrounding community cannot be underscored. As the only hospital between Grants and Albuquerque on Interstate-40, ACL serves as a lifeline for the health and safety of this community, which is only amplified during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. I continue to acknowledge and support the Pueblo of Laguna’s right to contract their own health services; however, providing uninterrupted and full capacity hospital services at ACL should remain a top priority for IHS during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Pueblo of Acoma has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases. Over a matter of weeks, cases on the Pueblo went from zero in September to 100 in early November. With the recent suspension of emergency services and inpatient care at ACL, the community must now drive one hour or longer to hospitals in Grants or Albuquerque that are already reaching capacity.

In response to the abrupt halt in services at ACL in the face of surging virus infections, the Governor of Acoma has had to implement a state of emergency.

As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionally affected tribal communities, in part due to a lack of environmental and public health infrastructure. IHS’ actions with ACL only compound this. In 2019, ACL served 90,000 patients. IHS' actions will now leave many of these patients without the care they need, in the midst of a deadly and vicious pandemic.

IHS' lack of appropriate consultations with the Pueblo and the sudden reduction of services is unprincipled and unnecessarily puts lives in tribal communities at risk. I respectfully request that you reverse the decision to suspend emergency services and inpatient care at ACL and I implore you to reexamine alternate funding avenues for sustaining vital healthcare services, including the emergency funding that Congress has allocated to IHS for COVID-19 response.

Sincerely,