The National Indian Health Council (NIHB) will award Meskwaki Health Clinic its most prestigious award, the “Health Heroes Award”. The award will be presented at a virtual ceremony on October 6.
Located in Washington DC on Capitol Hill, the nonprofit organization NIHB provides a variety of services to Indian tribes including advocacy, policy development, regulatory monitoring, and research on human health. Indians. Each year they recognize a small group of individuals and organizations who demonstrate exceptional service in the quest to improve the health of Indigenous people and seek to honor the good work being done across Indian country.
One of the few agencies to receive this year’s award, the healthcare team at Meskwaki Health Clinic have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, providing more than 6,000 COVID-19 injections to residents and facility staff, as well as underserved communities. throughout central Iowa.
As a tribe of just over 1,450 people, the health clinic has served more than four times the population of their tribe, providing life-saving vaccines to anyone wishing to be vaccinated. For this, NIHB seeks to thank and reward the Meskwaki Nation for its exceptional service to tribal communities amid the difficult times of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It takes a great team to lead a huge project like this, and we have an exceptional staff who really stepped up to the challenge.” The director of health services, Rudy Papakee, said. “When the pandemic hit, we thought about how we could help. With these initial planning efforts, staff were ready to be part of the solution from the start. “
Leading the way, Papakee and his team circumvented state mandates to secure previous shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine through the Indian health services of the federal government.
“I felt that the link with the Indian health service was going to be much stronger”, said Papakee. “They promised from the start that once they got it, they would put it in our hands. Looking back, this decision was integral to our initial success.
With an early vaccine supply and a community willing to receive the vaccine, the Meskwaki colony as a whole had a much higher vaccination rate than most of the United States at the start and was able to remain virus free for most of it. of summer. Additionally, staff were able to expand services, offering injections to people of all ages outside the colony and throughout central Iowa.
With federal COVID-19 funding, the clinic purchased a mobile vaccination clinic serving local school districts like South Tama, East Marshall and Marshalltown, as well as districts of larger communities like Newton and North High School in Des Moines.
Staff worked long hours and traveled to many places to make sure the vaccine reached as many people as possible, especially underserved populations, the elderly and young people. They have offered walk-in clinics at several locations including their own clinic, Toledo Heights, Downtown Des Moines Juneteenth Celebration and locally through the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel.
Additionally, Meskwaki staff continue to work in the evolving landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic and still offer the vaccine to anyone who requests it. Their goal is to provide accurate vaccine information and help dispel vaccine hesitancy issues through leadership and support.
“At first the organization seemed a bit overwhelming, but it was totally worth all the effort we’ve put in so far. I’m super proud of our staff, I think they deserve this award. We are grateful to the NIHB for recognizing our work. The nurse in charge of the clinic, Sara Augspurger, said.
Papakee concluded, “I want to thank all of our healthcare staff, Meskwaki leaders and the entire community for their support and help as we continue to navigate the pandemic together. As we continue to meet the health care needs of the tribe, we will soon begin offering booster shots as per CDC recommendations. “
Papakee said that while COVID-19 is an ongoing concern, he continues to be concerned about staff exhaustion and impacts on staff with the ongoing pandemic.
“The staff have shown great resilience and have continued to meet the challenges posed by the fight against COVID-19. Receiving such an award confirms that their efforts are recognized and appreciated not only locally but nationally.