GALLUP — The federal agency that provides health care for Native people has entered into an agreement with the Navajo Nation to assess whether a location on the eastern outskirts of Gallup is the most suitable site for construction of a new medical center.

Indian Health Service spokesperson Jenny Notah said $17 million has been appropriated for planning and evaluation work for the project.

The balance of the projected cost of $615 million awaits congressional appropriation, Notah told the Gallup Independent.

The agency’s current facility in Gallup was built in the 1950s and has been at the center of controversy even before the pandemic because it lacks infrastructure and equipment to serve many patients.

As a result, many patients have to be transferred or referred to other hospitals in the region.

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