HHS sued over move to close New Mexico hospital

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A New Mexico indigenous tribe is suing HHS and the Indian Health Service, claiming the federal government illegally moved to close a hospital on tribal land and convert it into an urgent care clinic, according to the Albuquerque Journal.  

The federal government first announced plans in November to cut inpatient and emergency services at Acoma-Cañoncito-Laguna Hospital and sought to close the hospital Feb. 1. In a lawsuit filed Jan. 28, the Pueblo of Acoma allege the federal government failed to provide proper notice to Congress before deciding to close the hospital. The tribe asked the judge to order IHS to offer hospital services at the facility until it complies with federal law and filed motions seeking to immediately bar the government from cutting services at the hospital. 

On Jan. 29, a federal judge granted the motion, temporarily prohibiting the government from shutting down the hospital or cutting services. The parties were ordered to confer and jointly submit more information to the court by noon Feb.1. 

The IHS defended its actions in a statement to Law360:

"The Indian Health Service remains committed to providing comprehensive, quality health care to patients at the Acoma-Canoncito-Laguna Service Unit," it wrote. "Notification to Congress is not required for the temporary closure of a facility or of any portion of a facility necessary for medical, environmental, or safety reasons," IHS stated. "As a result of the significant reduction of resources available to the federal program ... the IHS believes that it will be necessary to permanently transform or re-design the IHS [ACL] Service Unit. Any permanent closures will be properly communicated to Congress at the appropriate time." 

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Jan. 24 urging him to intervene and maintain full services at the hospital. 

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