Tobacco In Public Places/Workplace - SMSC Grant To Health Foundation
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK – The Navajo Nation Council on Wednesday voted down the Commercial Tobacco-Free act of 2009 which would have prohibited the use of commercial tobacco products in public places and workplaces, but Thomas Walker Jr., sponsor of the bill, said the measure is far from being defeated.
He referenced a letter distributed to delegates from Navajo Division of Health Director Anslem Roanhorse concerning the act and asked fellow delegates to table the measure so issues raised by Roanhorse could be resolved.
Roanhorse said that although the division is in full support of the overall intent of the legislation, several provisions were ambiguous and lacked specific details, such as enforcement and funding.
“If the legislation is enacted as proposed, I believe NDOH will face some challenges in implementing various provisions, particularly in carrying out its enforcement responsibility,” he said.
The proposed bill does not restrict fundamental traditional use of tobacco. It does, however, note that commercial tobacco is not only harmful to the sacred elements of air and earth, it disrespects Navajo fundamental traditions.
“Commercial tobacco abuses our people and harms our environment, resulting in disharmony with the body and the earth,” the legislation states, adding that there are no safe levels of exposure to secondhand smoke and no available adequate ventilation technology, based upon scientific studies, that can ensure the protection and prevention of secondhand commercial tobacco smoke health-related illnesses.
The Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise sent a letter to delegates Oct. 14 with a recommendation that gaming facilities which provide designated non-smoking gaming areas to the public not be subject to the restrictions of the act. When the tobacco ban surfaced last year, the Enterprise argued that it would hurt projected revenue and affect the ability to obtain adequate financing for future Navajo casinos.
The Enterprise maintains that while proponents of the Tobacco Free Act are well intended and that limitations should be put in place to limit access to smoke and tobacco, the purpose of the Navajo gaming initiative is to create a gaming economy and jobs for the Navajo people.
Perhaps to illustrate that point, Winter chose the day the Tobacco-Free legislation was being presented to make a presentation of his own – two checks totaling $5,179,502.
The first check of $3,929,502 represented 11 percent of Fire Rock Casino’s first quarter earnings and was presented to the Resources Committee and Chairman George Arthur. Resources loaned the Enterprise $35 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund it oversees to construct the casino.
A second check was presented to LoRenzo Bates and the Budget and Finance Committee for $1,250,000 and represented the principle on the loan.
Robert Winter, Fire Rock Casino CEO, told Council, “We had very little success in getting financing for building the Navajo Nation’s first casino and if it wasn’t for the members of this council and the committees who stepped up to the plate, Fire Rock wouldn’t be here today.”
Though that was a tough act to follow, Dr. Patricia Nez Henderson, Walker's agent for the Tobacco-Free legislation, said delegates who continue to support an amendment where one certain business would continue to expose its customers and employees to cancer-causing agents “is of huge concern to us as health advocates. We are going to continue to advocate on behalf of this legislation completely as it is, with no exemption for any businesses.”
She supported Walker's attempt to table the legislation. “I'm glad we're going to have a little bit more time to go into the community and provide more education,” she said.
Even if the legislation had passed, Walker said, he is confident they would have been able to go back and resolve the issues raised by Roanhorse. “But in the spirit of working together, of k'e, our Navajo kinship system, we asked the Council to allow us time to work with our Division of Health to let them provide some guidance.”
“Although we're sponsors and proponents of this legislation, this isn't our legislation; this is the Nation's. We want legislation that works and is effective and would not create obstacles or barriers or unnecessary challenges and hardships.”
Council appears anxious to vote on the Tobacco-Free Act, he said. “Yesterday we attempted to delete it, but they wanted to address it. Voting down the legislation does not mean defeating the legislation. It's not voting against the bill. They clearly understand we just need to work on it a bit more.”
Delegate Ben Curley, who made the original motion to table, told Council, “I believe we do need a tobacco legislation in place that would address commercial tobacco in public places.” The motion was seconded by Harry Claw.
However, Delegate Kathryn Benally raised a point of order to remind Council that when a legislation is tabled, it comes back to Council in its original form and there is no room for amendments. So they voted down the tabling measure, 35-37.
Delegate Lorenzo Curley said he really wanted to speak on the issue, but since the sponsor was asking them not to pass it, “Let's just vote and vote it down and then they can always come back and bring a new document.” The legislation failed 28-48.
Shakopee Award $1 Million Grant To Saints Healthcare Foundation
By Tessa Lehto
Goal Is Improved Rehabilitaion Services, Addition of 30 Beds
Prior Lake, MN – The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community will award a matching grant for $1 million to the Saints Healthcare Foundation of Shakopee, Minnesota. The grant was announced at the 2009 Spirit of the Saints Gala held on Saturday, October 24, 2009, at the Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan, Minnesota. SMSC funds will match dollar for dollar funds raised by the Foundation up to one million dollars.
Already the Foundation has received commitments for more than $400,000 in donations to improve rehabilitation services at St. Gertrude’s Health & Rehabilitation Center in Shakopee, Minnesota.
Saints Healthcare Foundation raises funds for both St. Francis Regional Medical Center and St. Gertrude’s both of Shakopee, Minnesota.
At the gala, St. Gertrude’s CEO Lee Larson and St. Francis Regional Medical Center President Mike Baumgartner invited SMSC Vice-Chairman Glynn A. Crooks onstage to make the announcement.
“We are happy to be able to support both St. Gertrude’s and St. Francis with this donation of one million dollars to the Saints Healthcare Foundation. I personally have had a lot of experience at St. Francis with friends and family members who have been patients there, so I know how important the work they do is,” the Vice-Chairman said.
More than 350 guests attended the event, including long-time volunteers and donors, members of the medical community, and other community leaders who share a commitment to supporting St. Francis and St. Gertrude’s.
SMSC Secretary/Treasurer Keith B. Anderson championed the support of the Saints Foundation. He said, “St. Francis and St. Gertrude’s are the two health care facilities that are not only closest to the reservation, but also serve our Community members on a daily basis. In supporting this cause, we are giving back to organizations which have helped the larger community so much over the years.”
St. Gertrude’s Health & Rehabilitation Center provides long-term care, hospice services, assisted living, and rehabilitation for patients recovering from orthopedic surgeries, cancer, and motorcycle and vehicle injuries.
“There’s so much demand for rehab beds that St. Gertrude’s turns away between 60 and 80 patients a month,” said Saints Healthcare Foundation Executive Director Mary Clem. She described the typical St. Gertrude’s rehabilitation patient as not elderly, but ages 18 and up, typically needing services to regain mobility and strength following surgical procedures, strokes or motor vehicle accidents. Patients stay an average of 18-20 days.
The Shakopee Mdewakanton gift will support construction of a 36,565 square foot addition to the existing St. Gertrude’s to house expanded rehabilitation services. Thirty beds dedicated to rehabilitation will be added and existing rooms and physical therapy space will be remodeled. The bed licenses were acquired from a nursing home which closed in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“Because of this grant, approximately 60 patients in need of rehabilitation services won’t have to be turned away each month,” Clem continued. “It started as a dream where we needed $2 million in a difficult economy. The Shakopee Mdewakanton showed us that it was possible. Through their gift, they inspired others in the larger community to give, too; $1.5 million of our $2 million goal came in within one week.”
“Nowhere else around here are these types of services available. St. Gertrude’s is the market leader in Dakota, Carver, Scott, and Hennepin Counties. Otherwise patients have to drive 30 minutes, often in traffic, into the city to receive rehab services,” she said.
The original plan called for the new addition to be open for patients as early as May 2011 but with funding falling into place so rapidly, it may be advanced, she said.
Saints Healthcare Foundation is a non-profit organization, established in October 2008 through the merger of two long-standing foundations—the St. Francis Foundation and St. Gertrude’s Foundation. Like its predecessor foundations, Saints Healthcare Foundation remains an associated foundation of the Benedictine Health System (BHS) Foundation and exists to generate philanthropic support for the two BHS-affiliated healthcare organizations that serve local patients — St. Gertrude’s Health & Rehabilitation Center and St. Francis Regional Medical Center.
Historically, St. Francis and St. Gertrude’s Foundations worked independently, assembling more than 22,500 community volunteers and $5 million in donations to meet community health needs. Going forward, Saints Healthcare Foundation leverages the unique strengths of each organization, while working together in a new, shared space that offers innovative, efficient, and meaningful opportunities to advance the future of health care across the entire healthcare continuum.
St. Gertrude’s currently houses a 35-bed long term care unit, a 40-bed rehabilitation/sub acute center, and a 40-bed assisted living unit. It is located on the St. Francis Regional Medical Center campus which provides an extensive continuum of care including cancer and dialysis centers, physician and specialty clinics, a premier regional hospital, pharmacy, and dental and eye clinics. Over the past ten years since St. Gertrude’s opened, they have successfully discharged over 3,500 individuals back into their respective communities.
Eighty percent of patient referrals are from St. Francis. Patients with plans to enter St. Gertrude’s after a hospital procedure often reduce their length of stay at St. Francis. Caring for these additional patients also means more on-campus visits for lab, diagnostic, oncology, and other procedures. Rehabilitated patients also often return home more safely and are less likely to be readmitted to St. Francis with complications following a procedure.
In previous years, SMSC grants totaling $705,000 helped fund construction of a new emergency room for St. Francis and of a chapel and outdoor meditation area and Circle of Life Suites for hospice care for St. Gertrude’s.
For more information about the Saints Healthcare Foundation, call 952-233-4400 or go to http://www.saintshealthcarefoundation.org/.
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