November 16, 2020

Udall Statement on Closure of Critical Health Services at ACL Hospital

As COVID-19 cases surge in New Mexico, Pueblo residents will now need to travel hours to access emergency medical services

WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, made the following statement in response to the Indian Health Service (IHS) decision to shut down emergency room and in-patient services at the Acoma, Laguna, Canoncito (ACL) hospital, located on Acoma Tribal lands:

“This pandemic has strained Native health systems, disrupted Tribal economies, and taken a disproportionate toll on Native families.  Tribes across the country have met this crisis with resilience, but their federal partners aren’t rising to the challenge.  Cutting essential services, like the closure of IHS’s ACL service unit, while New Mexico is experiencing a dangerous surge in COVID-19 cases statewide, is a threat to public health – for Native families and for the entire state. It’s wrong. It’s dangerous. And, it’s a complete dereliction of duty. IHS needs to provide clear, direct answers about where the people of Acoma, Laguna, and To’hajiilee are going to be able to access emergency and hospital care during this public health crisis. 

“Throughout this pandemic, I’ve heard directly from Tribes about their urgent and ongoing needs for healthcare and economic resources to combat the virus. That’s why I worked so hard to make sure we included $10 billion in relief funds for Tribal governments in the CARES Act. Yet, I continue to hear how existing federal policies, practices, and program structures have left Native communities particularly exposed to severe and long-lasting impacts. This pandemic is not over, and the call to live up to our trust and treaty responsibilities is still paramount. We must continue the work to build a stronger, better Indian Health Service system so that health disparities that already exist in Indian Country are not further exacerbated.”