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Tribal Leaders Seek Help With Recruitment, Retention Of Indian Health Service Workers

Indian Health Service (IHS)

Members of the Eastern Shoshone Business Council are back from Washington D.C., where they met with Indian Health Service (IHS) officials about healthcare staffing on the Wind River Reservation.

Councilwoman Karen Snyder said she and Councilman Leslie Shakespeare made the cross-country trip to IHS's federal headquarters because the program's regional office is plagued with many of the same issues as Wind River's local clinics.

"There's high turnover at the Billings office, and so that turnover trickles down to the tribes," Snyder said.

The tribal health center in Fort Washakie is operated by IHS, meaning the tribe itself doesn't have the power to recruit and hire clinic employees. Lately, Snyder said federal bureaucracy hasn't been moving quickly enough to fill vacant positions at the clinic, which many tribal members rely on for most or all of their healthcare needs.

"The timeframe that it takes to recruit, fill and even incentivize those individuals to move to a rural community, they just don't have a lot to bargain with," she said. "And that's what we've asked them, is there something you can do to incentivize so we can retain good doctors and nurses?"

Snyder called the meetings a success, and said the Eastern Shoshone Tribe is now working with regional and federal IHS officials to address the problem. She and Shakespeare also met with staffers from Wyoming's Congressional delegation to discuss the need for more consistent healthcare staffing on Wind River.

According to IHS's hiring portal, there are 16 open positions at the tribal health center in Fort Washakie and several more at clinics in Ethete, Arapahoe and Riverton.

Savannah comes to Wyoming Public Media from NPR’s midday show Here & Now, where her work explored everything from Native peoples’ fraught relationship with American elections to the erosion of press freedoms for tribal media outlets. A proud citizen of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, she’s excited to get to know the people of the Wind River reservation and dig into the stories that matter to them.

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