Jessica McBride/Media Coordinator
Council representatives call for accountability, evaluations
OKMULGEE, Okla. — An extraordinary session of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation National Council was held March 21 at the Mound Building in Okmulgee to discuss and address a reported budget deficit at the MCN Department of Health.
During the session, documents were provided that listed several options to realign MCNDH structure, operations and services, as well as reduce expenses.
Options being considered can be viewed at: http://tinyurl.com/js6pzhc.
The ‘Muscogee Nation News’ requested interviews with MCN health and financial officials for clarification about information obtained through documents, meetings and interviews.
‘MNN’ was granted an interview with MCN Principal Chief James Floyd.
The Public Relations Department requested a list of questions be sent for review prior to the interview.
The interview can be viewed at: http://tinyurl.com/j7np5mu.
In the interview, Floyd discussed cutting the number of health governing board positions.
“My plan if I had a magic wand and could change it, I would reduce the number… And that way I think we could have decisions made a little more efficiently,” he said.
View the previous story regarding the health governing board at: www.mvskokemedia.com/fractured-finances-health-governing-board-discusses-lack-of-financial-transparency/.
Floyd said he was not sure if additional revenue is being generated from MCNDH facility additions in the last several years such as the MRI located at the medical center in Okmulgee.
Former MCN Principal Chief George Tiger discussed the reported health deficit in an April 27 interview with Mvskoke Media.
The interview can be viewed at: www.mvskokemedia.com/tiger-speaks-former-chief-addresses-reported-health-deficit/.
George Tiger said that he is proud of building the MRI center.
“…We did that because we were having to resource that out and were paying millions of dollars,” he said. “Now that money can be kept locally and recycled to maybe do some other programs with the money that we’re making off of it.”
During the session, Floyd recommended seeking an outside review of the department.
“I think immediately we should seek a contractor or contract group to come in, begin to go through this information to make sure that there’s validity to the numbers that we’ve seen and that these options are either acceptable options or ones that we discard and maybe go with others.
“The sooner that that can be brought in, I think the sooner that we can begin to save costs,” Floyd said.
He also spoke about changes that have been implemented.
“As you know, human resource, our capital is the highest portion of the budget between 70 and 80 percent,” Floyd said. “As you may be aware, we did reduce the overtime I think late last month (February) and scaled that back and so already things are occurring.”
Overtime is further addressed in the ‘MNN’ coverage of the March 15 Council planning session, and can be viewed at: www.mvskokemedia.com/fractured-finances-health-governing-board-discusses-lack-of-financial-transparency/.
Floyd said that changes must be made in order to fix the reported deficit.
“I cannot come back to you guys again and say we need more money,” he said. “We have got to go out and earn our way out of this situation.”
During the session, Rep. Randall Hicks commented on accountability.
“And to me, somebody’s got to be held responsible for this. I mean, I have a hard time accepting that the governing board was not aware of this deficit. I mean, to me it’s business.
“It should be run like a business. If I’m in a position, I’m held accountable for what I’m responsible for… people’s got to be held accountable. It’s just the bottom line,” Hicks said.
Rep. Mark Randolph said it was a terrible feeling when he learned about the reported deficit.
“I don’t want to sit here and go back and forth with who’s fault it is. We did ask questions. We did ask for financials.
“We were locked out of the financial system where our financial officer, she couldn’t even get in there and pull up this information. And so we were kept in the dark,” he said.
In an April 15 interview with Mvskoke Media, Floyd said the executive branch communicates financial information to the Council on an almost daily basis.
“Either they request it or we sent it over because we want them to be informed,” he said. “So we’re sending over quite a bit of information so that they can have it and make the appropriate decision.”
George Tiger said that his administration provided reports to the Council.
“Any reports that we get, whether it’s the administration or the Executive branch Office, the Council gets it too,” he said. “And if either of us felt at that time that we saw that that it was something of grave concern, certainly it would’ve been addressed.”
George Tiger said that as a former Council representative, Council and its committees have responsibility and oversight over aspects of MCN.
“I will say this, being a former speaker, one of my pet peeves as a speaker was there were times that a lot of my colleagues didn’t read what was in front of them,” he said. “And I used to jokingly say, ‘I’m going to quit printing things out because you don’t read them.’ ”
He said he does not know if this is the case with the current situation and reported health deficit.
Rep. Rufus Scott called for employee evaluations.
“People are in places because they’re certain peoples’ relatives. They’re certain peoples’ friends… And I think all these people that are in these positions need to be re-evaluated too,” Scott said.
George Tiger said that in order to improve the quality of health care for citizens, his administration increased salaries and provided relocation expenses in order to recruit employees.
“We couldn’t keep good health professionals… There was some other things that we had to do to be able to recruit and for lack of a better term, entice people, our own citizens by the way, that wanted to come home,” he said.
George Tiger said that this move is standard practice in the medical field and in the corporate world.
“Because one of the things that we said was we’re going to have to operate our tribe as a corporate because basically that’s what we are. We just happen to be a tribal government,” he said.
George Tiger said he believes that the purchases of the former Okmulgee Memorial Hospital and the George Nigh Rehabilitation Center was the right choice.
“…I think that any time you’re seeking to improve quality of health care, you do whatever you can to move forward progressively and positively,” he said.
‘MNN’ reached out to former MCN Secretary of Health Seneca Smith for comment March 30, April 7 and April 20, and left voicemails requesting a call back. Smith has not returned any phone calls as of May 9.
George Tiger said he has been in contact with Smith and that Smith is unable to comment on the situation due to his federal employment status.
Floyd issued a statement March 22 about realigning the health department and plans to fix the reported deficit issue.
‘We are now starting the process of making decisions with an outside health source to help lead quality/access/cost-saving initiatives. Right now our goal is to ensure the quality health care with our health system.’
The process is expected to take 12-18 months.
‘MNN’ requested a statement from MCN Attorney General Kevin Dellinger March 21 regarding the potential for legal actions dealing with the reported deficit.
‘The Muscogee (Creek) Nation Office of the Attorney General will continue to monitor and assess the MCNDH Budget Deficit. At this time, we do not have any further comments.’
MCNDH has set up contact information for citizens who have ideas and solutions regarding the realignment of the department.
Citizens may send an email to: email@example.com, call: 918-756-4333 ext. 271 or mail a letter to: MCN Department of Health, Attention Chief Legislative Officer John Beaver, P.O. Box 400, Okmulgee, OK 74447.