Native Americans with disabilities have the right to access COVID-19 testing and treatment! Historically under-resourced medical systems, unreliable internet connectivity, and a lack of access to water have all contributed to the spread of Coronavirus cases throughout Native American populations. Annette Yazzie, an advocate at the Native American Disability Law Center and member of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, has an informative message about navigating the Indian Health Service (IHS).
Check out her video on self-advocacy and preventing discrimination related to medical rationing.
The Office of Civil Rights for the Department of Health and Human Services’ five guiding principles that IHS hospitals must follow in its medical rationing policies:
- Decisions must be made based on individual situations
- Decisions cannot be made based on assumptions that persons with disabilities have lower qualities of life
- Decisions cannot be made based on assumptions that persons with disabilities have a lower prospect of survival
- Decisions cannot be based on perceptions that people with disabilities have higher treatment needs; and
- People qualify for COVID-19 treatment if they need it and it will make them better
As a person with a disability, you have the right to be considered for the medical treatment and equipment you need, through the same framework as anyone else. Rationing plans based on disability violate federal disability laws and prevent people with disabilities equal access to life-saving health care services.
If you have COVID-19 symptoms and request care at an IHS hospital, be prepared to advocate for yourself. Know the five guiding principles above, and if you are not equally considered for treatment, let the staff know that what they are doing is illegal. It also helps if you have a family member or friend with you to make sure you get the treatment you need.
If you are denied medical care or treatment at an IHS hospital, you should:
- Immediately demand to speak with the doctor in charge, or the chief medical officer and tell the medical staff that they are violating HHS Guidance
Later, you can:
- File a complaint with either IHS or HHS.
- Contact your local Area IHS Director. Find yours here.
- Contact your tribal and council leaders
- Contact your local news media
- Contact the Native American Disability Law Center at (505) 566-5880 or visit their website.
- Post on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter voicing your stance on this issue