Veterans helped with the flags circling the dedication ceremonies of the new Oglala Sioux Tribe nursing home near Whiteclay, Nebraska. Photo courtesy Jerry Matthews
OST Nursing Home dedicated, valuable contributors thanked
Six residents admitted, goal to add two per week
By Tom Crash
Lakota Country Times Correspondent
WHITECLAY, Neb. – On Thursday, September 29, the Oglala Sioux Tribe dedicated the new OST Nursing Home, a 60-bed, 55,000 square-foot facility located on tribal land in Nebraska, just south of Whiteclay.
Lyle Jack, a past tribal council representative from Pine Ridge was master of ceremonies, Tom Poor Bear, OST vice president gave the welcome while Leroy Louden, past Nebraska state senator talked history and Oyuhkpe drum group sang the honoring songs. Gary Ruse, financial advisor, Mario Gonzalez and Richard Rangel, general contractor were honored along with Will Isham of First National Bank of Gordon were honored with star quilts.
“The first resolution for a nursing home was in 1968 but it was 2003/2004 when we passed a council resolution requesting money from Shakopee,” said Kathy Janis, who was on the tribal council in the beginning and followed through with the project through administration after administration whether she was on the council or not and currently serves as the board chair on the board with Leonard Little Finger and Duane Brewer.
“We struggled getting the $13.5 million loan through different councils and Shakopee, we worked with Rural Water to get water infrastructure in place, navigated through a work stoppage caused by TERO and negotiated through tribal, state and federal regulations and now it’s open and we’re accepting residents," Janis said. "It is worth all of the headaches and struggles to see it open.”
Royalty from the Oglala Sioux Tribe with a resident of the new Oglala Sioux Tribe nursing home near Whiteclay, Nebraska. Photo courtesy Jerry Matthews
Ron Ross heads up Rural Health Development, a management company that manages 23 nursing homes, 20 in Nebraska, two in Iowa and one in Wyoming and now has a 24th with the OST Nursing Home. Native American Health Management is the local group, they have a minimum five year management contract to oversee the new facility, Susan Pourier was hired as the new manager and works side by side with a preceptor, Diane Ross.
“This has been a huge challenge. I wish it hadn’t taken so long: every time I‘m around people here, they’re expressing their appreciation for helping to make this happen,” said Gary Ruse, financial advisor. "Sure we had to work our way through state and tribal challenges but Shakopee and their loan requirements was the biggest challenge. Their lawyer would put together a list of requirements that needed to be fulfilled, you’d get that completed then there would be a whole new list, the due diligence requirements stared at 2-3 pages and ended up with over 400 items.”
At the present time there are six residents and we’re looking at adding two residents per week, stated Susan Pourier, nursing home manager. "We have 25 employees covering housekeeping, laundry, maintenance, dietary, nursing and office, eventually we could have 80-100 full and part time workers, employees not just from Pine Ridge but all across the reservation," she said. "We have 64 resident applications and 300 job applications right now."
“Our goal is adding two residents a week, we are waiting for the state inspection, we need that certification so we can bill for services,” said Diane Ross. “We are going at a slow pace, we want each new resident to have a successful transition to our facility, to feel comfortable, to get acclimatized to the building and staff.”
The Oglala Sioux Tribe honored Mario Gonzalez, second from left, Gary Ruse and Richard Rangel for their work in making the new nursing home a reality. Photo courtesy of Jerry Matthews
"We start with the application for new residents, we need a doctor’s orders that require services, we need a physical and medical history and in all of this, we need to make sure that each resident’s needs don’t exceed what we are able to provide," added Pourier. "If we are sure we can provide the necessary services and they are eligible for Medicaid then we transition them into the facility. We then do our own physical. We’re licensed in Nebraska and we work with the Gordon Clinic. As we add residents, we’ll add staff.”
Although it has just started, there has been a good deal of dialogue about adding another wing with 20 additional beds. The council has already passed a resolution in support. Somewhere between $3-5 million would be required; it could be an additional loan from Shakopee, a Rural Development grant or loan or a bond issued to cover the costs.
“When the tribe did their first survey, they found over 400 tribal members in nursing homes across South Dakota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana and Minnesota – we are now able to start bringing home our elders who are staying a long ways from home,” said Janis. “It seemed to take forever to get this project to fruition but we now have a beautiful facility where our elders will live out their years close to family and friends, it is an exciting time for the Oglala Lakota Nation and our tribal members.”
Find the award-winning Lakota Country Times on the Internet, Facebook
and Twitter and
download the new Lakota
Country Times app today.