RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — The head of the federal agency responsible for providing health care to members of Native American tribes believes legislation recently introduced in the U.S. Senate would help the department fix severe shortcomings at its network of hospitals across the country.

Indian Health Service principal deputy director Mary Smith spoke with The Associated Press hours ahead of a U.S. Senate committee hearing scheduled for Friday in South Dakota. The proposed legislation was expected to be discussed during the hearing.

The agency is already implementing a series of reforms, some of which are in response to severe quality-of-care deficiencies health inspectors recently found at hospitals on Native American reservations in the Great Plains.

Smith says the bill address issues of accountability and quality.

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