WINDOW ROCK, Arizona (ABC4) – Over 30,000 Navajo Nation people had COVID-19, just under 2,000 of them died, and most of them were elders. However, nearly 17,000 people recovered, including one 91-year-old, Henryel Whipple.
“We’re kind of isolated, nobody comes to our house to visit, to see us,” says Whipple.
Whipple says access to healthcare on the reservation is a challenge and he’s been struggling to get his hearing-aids fixed.
“The healthcare, it was a problem, really, because when they closed the hospitals down, it made it difficult for people to get in there when they needed to,” says Whipple.
The Navajo Nation Health Director says some clinics are still closed and hospitals have been overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
“We are the largest land base of any tribal nation across the United States. For someone to access healthcare services, especially during an emergency, can be between one hour, three hours, depending on where they live in some cases for emergency care,” says Dr. Jill Jim, the executive director for Navajo Department of Health.
She says there are more people than there is man power.
“We also have an emergency medical service program, but that is not adequately staffed and resourced as well,” says Dr. Jim.
This is what Navajo Nation leaders say they hope First Lady Dr. Jill Biden takes back to D.C., to show just how important it is for them to get funding and give proper care to their people.
“I just can’t feature that, that happened to us, when it could have been avoided,” says Whipple.
Dr. Jim is encouraging people to still wear masks and avoid contact with others, despite listed recoveries.
“I don’t think we’re done with this thing. This virus is still deadly to me as far as I’m concerned, until we find a solution,” says Dr. Jim.