(p. A1) EAGLE BUTTE, S.D.—Kate Miner walked into the Indian Health Service hospital, seeking help for a cough that wouldn’t quit.
An X-ray taken of Ms. Miner’s lungs that day, Oct. 19, 2016, found signs of cancer.
What exactly the IHS doctor said to Ms. Miner about her exam remains in dispute. Notations in her medical file indicate the doctor told her to come back for a lung scan the next day. Her family says they never were given such instructions and weren’t told of the two masses the X-ray revealed.
What is clear is that no further tests were done. And no IHS provider followed up when Ms. Miner returned twice more to the hospital, the only one on the Cheyenne River Reservation, over the next six months, medical records show.
Finally, on May 7, 2017, as the 67-year-old Ms. Miner lay crumpled on a hospital cot, the right side of her body shaking, a physician assistant ordered a CT scan, after her family insisted, according to the records and family members.
“You have two very large masses in your right lung. It’s probably a malignancy,” Ms. Miner’s daughter Kali Tree Top recalled the physician assistant saying.
Ms. Miner reached for her daughter’s hand and started to cry.
Ms. Miner’s encounters with the IHS, and her family’s repeated efforts to get her help there, illustrate how the federal agency can fail the patients who need it most.
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(Note: the online version of the story was updated December 23, 2019, and has the title “Kate Miner’s Tragic Journey Through the U.S. Indian Health Service.”)