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Dalton Walker
Indian Country Today

Amanda Tom is asking Indian Health Service and Phoenix Indian Medical Center to simply “be better.”

Tom, Navajo, was one of about a dozen concerned people on Thursday speaking out against the recent closing of the hospital’s birthing center. The group protested on the sidewalk in front of the hospital near downtown Phoenix and plan to do it again soon.

“Here we are in the middle of the pandemic, and they are closing the hospital down, parts of it,” Tom said. Tom carried a sign that read “IHS/PIMC Be Better.”

Amanda Tom protests outside the Phoenix Indian Medical Center on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. Tom wants the hospital to reopen its birthing center. (Photo by Dalton Walker, Indian Country Today)

Phoenix Indian Medical Center operates under Indian Health Service and abruptly shut down its birthing center on Aug. 26, saying it was temporary and due to facility infrastructure, equipment and staffing challenges. It’s unclear when it will reopen, if at all.

(Related: Birthing center closure: ‘My baby and I felt abandoned’)

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Nalene Gene, Navajo, was one of the protest organizers. She was born at the hospital and uses it for primary care. She hopes the birthing center closure isn’t a signal of other Indian Health Service cutbacks to come, in Phoenix or elsewhere.

Nalene Gene works finishes up her sign to protest the closing of Phoenix Indian Medical Center's birthing center. About a dozen people protested the closing on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. (Photo by Dalton Walker, Indian Country Today)

“I find it sad that women are not able to give birth here because of the closure,” Gene said. “I was born here and would like to have the option to choose to give birth here in the future. I feel like whatever is done here at the largest IHS facility is going to be an example of how to resolve issues, and we shouldn’t be closing services as a way to resolve things.”

Dr. John Molina, Pascua Yaqui and Yavapai-Apache, former CEO of the Phoenix Indian Medical Center, protested Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020 against the closing of its birthing center. (Photo by Dalton Walker, Indian Country Today)
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Dalton Walker, Red Lake Anishinaabe, is a national correspondent at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter: @daltonwalker Walker is based in Phoenix and enjoys Arizona winters.

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