Roselyn Tso, IHS director nominee, finally gets a hearing
There's been no permanent Indian Health Service director during Biden administration's oversight of the Covid-19 pandemic to date.
WASHINGTON — During a largely perfunctory U.S. Senate hearing today to oversee the nomination of Roselyn Tso to become the next director of the Indian Health Service (IHS), Tso promised the following priorities, according to her written testimony:
“Strengthening and streamlining IHS’ business operations to better support the delivery of health care by creating a more unified health care system that delivers the highest quality of care. This requires using the latest technology to develop centralized systems to improve patient outcomes.
“Developing systems to improve accountability, transparency, and patient safety. This requires updating many of the Agency’s policies and programs and using its oversight authority to ensure these policies and programs are implemented as intended to best serve Tribal communities.
“Addressing the workforce needs and challenges to provide quality and safe care. Each year, IHS loses too many skilled and experienced employees and struggles to replace them with qualified staff. IHS must improve its recruitment and retention efforts, enhance support and training for its workforce, and institute a robust succession plan to reduce employee turnover and ensure stability.”
All reasonable priorities, no doubt, said the Democratic and Republican senators who oversaw the relatively brief, 40-minute U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing.
Chair Brian Schatz (D-HI) raised a slight concern that Tso, a nearly 40-year career IHS employee, had not mentioned tribal sovereignty in her answers to written questions.
Tso clarified that she is a supporter of tribal sovereignty and will work to fulfill its tenets through tribal consultation. She is a citizen of the Navajo Nation, and she was introduced and supported by Navajo President Jonathan Nez.
No one asked him, and Schatz did not answer why it has taken 11 weeks since the White House’s nomination of Tso to hold this hearing during a pandemic that is continuing to take Native lives.
And no senators asked why the White House took over one year to nominate a person to this position, which oversees a multi-billion dollar budget each year and has obvious importance during pandemic times.
Of note, Vice-Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was not at the hearing due to personal obligations, according to U.S. Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), who took her place.
Tso’s bio, from the White House, follows:
Roselyn Tso, Nominee for Director of the Indian Health Service, Department of Health and Human Services
Roselyn Tso is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. Tso began her career with the Indian Health Service (IHS) in 1984. She previously served in various roles in the Portland Area IHS and IHS Headquarters. Currently, Tso serves as the Area Director for the Navajo Area IHS. The Navajo Area IHS delivers health services to a user population of over 244,000 American Indians; the Navajo Nation is one of the largest Indian reservations in the United States consisting of more than 25,000 contiguous square miles and three satellite communities, and extends into portions of the states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. In her leadership position, she was responsible for the implementation of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Act and worked directly with tribes and direct service tribes.
Tso holds a Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary studies from Marylhurst University in Portland, Oregon and a master’s degree in organizational management from the University of Phoenix, Portland, Oregon.
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