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IHS releases $500 million to improve health care and boost economy in Indian country

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that IHS will release $500 million for improvements in Indian health in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“These Recovery Act funds will provide critical assistance to American Indian and Alaska Native communities,” said IHS Director Yvette Roubideaux. “These funds will help improve health care, create jobs and make our Native communities stronger.”

The Recovery Act funds are to be expended as follows: $227 million for health facilities construction, $100 million for maintenance and improvements, $85 million for health information technology, $68 million for sanitation facilities construction, and $20 million for health equipment that will improve health care in Indian country.

The Recovery Act health facility construction funds will be used to complete the construction of the new IHS Eagle Butte Health Center in Eagle Butte, S.D. and the Norton Sound Regional Hospital in Nome, Alaska. The Eagle Butte Health Center will serve approximately 9,300 American Indians residing on the Cheyenne River Reservation. The facility will replace the existing Eagle Butte IHS Hospital which, at approximately one-third the size of the new facility, is stressed to meet the needs of the entire service population. The new Norton Sound facility replaces a 61-year-old hospital that is stretched to serve an estimated 10,000 users. The project will create a substantial number of new jobs in construction, transportation and other professions, and help fight unemployment in Nome.

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Sanitation facilities funds will be used to complete 169 sanitation facilities projects constructed in 24 states. These projects will provide potable water, wastewater disposal and solid waste systems to American Indian and Alaska Native homes and communities. An estimated 16,000 homes will be served by these projects, which will also help foster economic growth and create jobs.

The ARRA [www] will also fund 302 maintenance and improvement projects. Many IHS and tribal facilities require structural renovations, additional space and design updates to accommodate modern health care delivery practices. These projects will help maintain and improve facilities, which will improve patient care. These projects will also result in enhanced energy conservation and provide local jobs and economic stimulus.

Finally, Recovery Act funds will be used to purchase more than 200 pieces of medical equipment, including 35 ambulances and 10 Computed Tomography scanners, all of which will contribute substantially to patient care. Other equipment to be purchased includes cardiac monitoring equipment, equipment for integration of electronic patient records, blood chemistry analyzers, dental equipment, emergency defibrillators, and X-ray systems, among other items. The equipment will be distributed across 24 states.