Health care officials responding to crisis

Christopher Lomahquahu

Gila River Indian News


As COVID-19 continues to be a concern across the nation and world, the Gila River Indian Community is taking aggressive measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 


In an effort to reduce the spread of infection, the Gila River Health Care is screening visitors and patients for symptoms of COVID-19. 


As of this March 19, there were 45 reported cases in the state of Arizona and currently, there are no reported cases of COVID-19 in the Community. According to GRHC Dr. Anthony Santiago (Chief Medical Officer), 48 individuals were screened in the Community as of March 18), 8 of them GRHC employees, which were negative for COVID-19. 


Despite these results, Santiago said the possibility of COVID-19 in the Community, “Is not a matter of if, but when,” GRIC will have a positive case. 


Dr. Santiago said GRHC can take specimens for COVID-19, which will be sent off for testing at an outside lab for results. To expedite the testing process, the GRHC is exploring the possibility  acquiring analyzing equipment to test for COVID-19 that can provide results in a timely manner. 


Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis said the capacity for the Community to test for COVID-19, expands GRIC’s ability to treat its members. 


“We can get results a lot quicker,” said Myron Schurz GRHC Board of Directors Chairman. 

Schurz said they want to be prepared for what is to come, that includes the proper staffing, and equipment needed to treat patients. 


Screening stations have been setup at several entrances at each of the GRHC campuses, including dialysis centers, where they will be checked-in by a staff member. GRHC also developed a list of symptoms associated with COVID-19 to screen, which are: a new cough, fever, sore throat and shortness of breath. 


They recommend wearing a medical mask for individuals who are sick to prevent the spread of germs and recommend visitors to use hygienic practices when in and around exam rooms and areas where staff work. 


An important part of the visitation restrictions requires one family member to be allowed into the Emergency Department, impatient and wound care/infusion department. This also applies to the east and west dialysis centers.


These practices are not just for patients and visitors. They are also recommended for GRHC staff who need to safeguard themselves against infection. This includes, procedures for employees to follow in the event they are experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19. 


The GRHC recommends individuals who are experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 to contact their health care provider and notify the hospital or clinic, prior to coming in for treatment. If you are experiencing said symptoms, it is important to wear a face mask and avoid contact with others. 


According to Santiago, diabetics, those suffering from cardiovascular disease, the elderly and those with some comorbid conditions have higher mortality rates for COVID-19.