Porcupine Clinic Out of Heat
By Stephanie M. Schwartz, Freelance Writer
Native American Journalists Association (NAJA)
© October 26, 2007 Firestone, Colorado
Porcupine Clinic, located in the small community of Porcupine, South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota [Sioux] Reservation is out of heat. According to Stella White Eyes, Administrative Assistant for the Clinic, the Clinic has closed its doors until it can find resources to fund their heating costs.
Porcupine Clinic is the only independent Indian community-controlled health clinic in the United States. It is not connected with the Federal Indian Health Services (IHS) program and is funded primarily by grants and donations. Unfortunately, those resources have become exceptionally rare this year.
Porcupine Clinic opened its doors in 1992 and serves the entire Reservation as well as the Porcupine District in which it is located. Patients are billed according to their ability to pay and many patients, including low-income Elders and children, receive free health care there.
In 2004, the Porcupine Clinic opened its dialysis unit, saving countless lives of those diabetic patients who could not journey 120 miles away to Rapid City for needed dialysis treatment several times a week. The only other dialysis treatment available on the 11,000 square mile (2.7 million acres) Reservation is located in the small IHS Hospital in the community of Pine Ridge. But that facility hosts only a handful of dialysis beds, is up to 100 miles away from the more remote areas of the Reservation, and is completely unable to treat the vast need of the entire Reservation.
Recent statistics state that the diabetes rate on Pine Ridge is 800% that of the National average and the life expectancy rate is 52 to 58 years old. It is said that 55% of the adults on Pine Ridge over the age of 40 have diabetes.
Ms. White Eyes states that the Clinic has been unable to pay their annual propane tank rental fees of $245 (for both the Clinic and dialysis unit tanks) or for the propane to fill them. They have three tanks: a thousand gallon tank which services the main clinic and two five hundred gallon tanks servicing the dialysis unit. The minimum propane delivery from their provider, Western Cooperative (WESTCO) out of Chadron and Hay Springs, Nebraska, is $360.
If all the tanks were filled, at $1.69 per gallon, it would cost well over $3,000. Further, that will need to happen more than once this winter. While the dialysis unit helps to fund at least part of its own propane use, the Clinic is out of funding now, just as winter is approaching fast.
Harvey Iron Boy, Porcupine District Vice President and Head Man, spoke of the vital role that the Clinic plays in the local district as well as the Reservation as a whole. Not only are the health care services, bi-lingual assistance, diabetic education, and dialysis treatments all meeting critical needs on the Reservation but there are more basic needs met by the Clinic as well. He pointed out that locals often come into the Clinic simply to get warm on days when they have no heat in their own homes.
Ms. White Eyes has contacted various non-profits and assistance organizations but has largely gone unanswered. Link Center Foundation, a small all-volunteer non-profit organization out of Longmont, Colorado, was contacted this week and was also unable to help. With their own heating assistance program for the elders and disabled on the Reservation struggling due to lack of donations, there simply was no funding available to help the Clinic.
However, Audrey Link, Founder/President of the Link Center Foundation
( www.LinkCenterFoundation.org ), personally paid the $245 out of her own pocket for the annual tank rental fees for the Porcupine Clinic and dialysis unit on Friday. Largely retired and on limited income herself, Link stated that “She couldn’t go to sleep tonight if she thought the dialysis patients and Clinic were going to lose their propane tanks. At least now, if they can raise any money at all elsewhere, they can use the money for propane to fill them.”
Anyone wishing to donate towards propane fuel for the Porcupine Clinic may do so directly to the propane company. Please contact:
Loretta Margrave at Western Cooperative (WESTCO)
170 Bordeaux St – Chadron, NE 69337-2342
Call Toll Free 800-762-9906
Credit Card and Bank Card donations by phone will be accepted. Small donations are also welcome and will accumulate until the minimum delivery has been reached and then the company will make a delivery of propane to the Clinic. Please clearly mark any donation “For Porcupine Clinic.”
Donations may also be sent directly to the Clinic. For more information, please contact:
Stella White Eyes, Administrative Assistant
P.O. Box 275 – Porcupine, SD 57772
Note: Due to lack of heat, there may or may not be anyone available to answer the phone at the Clinic at this time. Please leave a message.
Visit other writings of Stephanie M. Schwartz at www.SilvrDrach.homestead.com
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