The Rosebud Hospital is located on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. Photo by Crystal R. Leighton
Indian Health Service to reopen emergency room in South Dakota
After a seven-month shutdown that has taken a heavy toll on the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, an Indian Health Service emergency room will finally reopen.

The diversion at the Rosebud Hospital began in early December. Since then, five infants have been born in ambulances and nine people have died while being transported to facilities far from the reservation.

The situation should finally change when the hospital resumes round-the-clock emergency service on Friday. Lawmakers from South Dakota welcomed the development but said underlying issues at the IHS must be addressed.

"Today is a day of hope, but it is not the end of our work. So much still needs to be done," Rep. Kristi Noem (R-South Dakota) said in a press release on Thursday. "The problems that led to the grave conditions in Rosebud remain."


Indianz.Com SoundCloud: House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs July, 12 2016

The shutdown and its effects on the reservation were brought up at a hearing on Tuesday that focused on H.R.5406, the Helping Ensure Accountability, Leadership, and Trust in Tribal Healthcare Act (HEALTTH Act), a bill to reform the IHS. Noem asked a Rosebud leader whether any of the nine deaths were "preventable."

"We can't say if they could have been ... but we can't say just the opposite of that," council member William Bear Shield, who chairs the tribe's health board, told the House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs.

"Our tribe looks at it (the deaths) as being part of the diversion," he said.

To come up with answers, the tribe has called for an independent investigation of the nine deaths. In response to questioning by Noem, Mary Smith, the leader of the IHS, agreed to support an investigation, possibly by the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services.


A provision in S.2953, the IHS Accountability Act, would require the OIG at HHS to "investigate each patient death in which the [IHS] is alleged to be involved by an act or omission."

"Emergency room services are an essential part of any hospital," Sen Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota), a co-sponsor of the S.2953, said in press release. "However, there is still much work to be done to make certain our tribal members are receiving adequate and timely care."

House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs Notice:
Legislative Hearing on the "HEALTTH Act" (July 12, 2016)

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