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Lawton Indian Hospital patients demand change

LAWTON, Okla._Native Americans from all over southwest Oklahoma gathered to say 'enough is enough' when it comes to what they believe is poor healthcare provided by the federal government.

Lawton Indian Hospital patients said just going to the doctor often takes nearly all day. They also say prescriptions are rarely filled correctly and even the majority of the staff treats patients with lack of respect or dignity. Even though officials with Indian Health Services weren't in attendance, that's why the Lawton Inter-Tribal Advisory Board arranged the meeting, in hopes of bringing change to a system they say is plagued with problems.

Tribal officials, along with their lawyers, heard not only from Comanche and Apache patients, but others as well like Kiowa, Caddo and even Choctaw and Cherokee members. They’re all patients who use the Lawton facility for their primary healthcare. They said there's just no excuse for sub-par services for people who have nowhere else to turn.

"They've always had that system, they've always made their money, and then they just go home. And meanwhile, more Indians die," said Raymond Perosi, a patient of the hospital.

Perosi is a proud Comanche member who's gone to the Lawton area hospital all his life. He says Indian Health Services isn't just a broken system; it's chaos that took his sister's life.

"About three times a week, I took her to the emergency room and they kept promising, 'You need to go to this doctor, you need to go to that doctor’ and in the mean while, she died from being shuffled from place to place," said Perosi.

He told his sister's story at the meeting to represent Native Americans everywhere who rely on the government for their medical needs.

Perosi isn't the only one who says enough is enough. Over one hundred people showed up at the Comanche Tribal Complex to express their concerns. All with different health conditions, all with the same healthcare experience.

"I'm very concerned about what's going to happen in the future," said Comanche Nation Chairman Wallace Coffey.

Coffey is a member of the Health Advisory Board, a group that has little say on how the hospital is run. He says with nearly $45 million being pumped into it each year, he's determined to find out why services are lacking.

"Even though we might be an advisory capacity only, we recommend that an audit and investigation be taken with regard to the use of these monies and where they are going," said Coffey.

"It's really bad being Native American and looking for healthcare that they promised us with our treaties. We're the first people of this country, there's no denying that. And you know what, we deserve it," said Perosi.

Chairman Coffey says right now, they're just collecting as many testimonies as possible while they try to initiate an audit at the hospital. He told people in the meeting that he would take their concerns all the way to Congress if that's what it takes.

A spokesperson with the Indian Health Services said they could not comment, since they were not involved in the meeting, but said they are dedicated to providing the best healthcare possible to Native Americans all over the country.

 

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