Catawba Service Unit hopes to expand clinical care

Jim Largo
5/25/05

CATAWBA INDIAN RESERVATION, S.C. - IHS health care providers hope to expand
clinical health care for members of the Catawba Indian Nation and other
American Indians after they move into the just-completed building on the
reservation.

For years, the Catawba Health Clinic was located in the lower floor of the
Longhouse at the Catawba tribal offices, about six miles from the town of
Rock Hill, S.C. Capt. Diane Carnes, chief executive officer, explained that
the clinic there was crowded and offered little privacy.

Carnes said the new 27-room building will provide more room and increased
privacy. The clinic will be located at the entrance to the Catawba Indian
housing area known as "Green Earth," a newly completed federal Title VI
home project located about three miles east of the city.

The clinic was constructed at the same time as the housing project. When
IHS took over the Catawba Health Clinic, it also took over the funding and
construction of the building. "The building is the tribe's, and we have a
lease agreement ... with the tribe," Carnes said.

"We have 15 on the staff now," she said. "There are three of us here that
are commissioned officers: myself, the doctor and pharmacist. The rest of
the staff is civil service."

Catawba Service Unit, under the Department of Health and Human Services,
took over the program the Catawba Indian Nation had run for many years. IHS
came to the Catawba Reservation nearly two years ago, said Carnes, with an
annual operating budget of more than $1 million.

Carnes said the unit's budget is divided into four quarters, making it
easier for her to operate within the funding. "It helps us keep the budget
on the right side of the line," she said.

"We were able to keep some of the original staff and converted them to the
federal system," she said. "That helped strengthened the continuity to the
program. We had to build from the ground up."

Patients are required to undergo medical checkups, mainly for records to be
kept by the unit. "We will establish a chart of the patient, even though
they don't come regularly. If they do choose to come here, for a cold or
something, we will have a history," Carnes said.

"We have started ... doing immunizations for children, which has not been
done previously. We have the usual ambulatory clinic services; we have a
full-scale lab. We also added a pharmacy." In addition, the unit offers
nutrition and diabetes programs, and provides service under contractual
agreement with local health care providers.

Carnes said they also hope to include some eye care and dental services.
"We don't anticipate a full clinic where you get glasses," she said, but
the purchase of a retinal camera for retinal screening is being considered.

While working with a tribe in Louisiana in the 1980s, she learned about the
IHS. "So I moved to Nashville, applied and was hired on," she said. Her
first assignment was with the Oneida Nation in Wisconsin. Before coming to
Catawba, she worked with the Creek Nation in Alabama.

The Catawba Service Unit, which is under IHS's Nashville (Tenn.) area
office, has a front office plus the administration, a laboratory, examining
rooms, a pharmacy and a kitchen.

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page