Native Sun News: Longtime Indian Health Service staff reassigned

The Pine Ridge Hospital on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo from Dean Kurtz Construction

Sioux San next IHS facility on the chopping block?
Pine Ridge Indian Health nurses complain about foreign doctors filling jobs
By Ernestine Chasing Hawk
Native Sun News Editor

PINE RIDGE –– IHS Emergency Room Nurses, some with more than 20 years of experience working at the Pine Ridge Hospital on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, were given notice last week that they will be permanently reassigned and replaced by medical staff from a company known as AB Staffing Solutions, LLC.

Threats from the Centers for Medical and Medicaid Services (CMS) to terminate provider agreements with three Indian Health Service emergency room facilities for compliance violations has been the subject of the moccasin telegraph for months.

IHS announced last week their remedy, permanently reassign all emergency room personnel and replace them with medical staff from the for-profit company, AB Staffing Solutions, LLC.

IHS announced last week that they awarded a $60 million 5 year contract to AB Staffing Solutions, LLC, to provide Emergency Department staffing at three hospitals: Rosebud Hospital and Pine Ridge Hospital in South Dakota and Omaha Winnebago Hospital in Nebraska.

Mary Smith, principal deputy director of IHS said, “This new contract underscores the IHS commitment to pursuing creative new solutions that ensure high quality care for our patients, who are our top priority. The new contract will benefit IHS patients and providers by ensuring a 24-hour Emergency Department at IHS Rosebud Hospital and two others (Pine Ridge Hospital and Omaha Winnebago Hospital). IHS recognizes that high quality emergency room services are critical to communities.”

However it has been revealed that IHS has been utilizing AB Staffing Solutions for years and medical personnel from AB Staffing Solutions are responsible for many of the compliance violations incurred at the Pine Ridge facility.

“The impression left by IHS in their recent decision to go with AB Staffing was that the nurses were somehow involved in the findings by CMS, when in fact AB Staffing has been supplying doctors and nurses to the Pine Ridge Hospital for the past five years,” one source said.

There has been a misperception, he said, enhanced by Deputy ER Director Dr. Joselyn Augusto, that somehow when CMS came to Pine Ridge and did its review of files, that the nursing staff and the medical staff were somehow involved, when in fact all of the findings by CMS involved problems with care provided by doctors from AB Staffing.

Read the rest of the story on the all new Native Sun News website: Sioux San next IHS facility on the chopping block?

(Contact Ernestine Chasing Hawk at

Government Accountability Office Report:
INDIAN HEALTH SERVICE: Actions Needed to Improve Oversight of Patient Wait Times (April 29, 2016)

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Report:
In Critical Condition: The urgent need to reform the Indian Health Service’s Aberdeen Area (December 2010)

Copyright permission Native Sun News

Join the Conversation