Boxes located in an underground cellar show how far mold reached into the bioterrorism equipment stored at the Sioux San Hospital complex in Rapid City, South Dakota. Photo by Aaron Circle Bear

Native Sun News Today: Moldy PPE reportedly used at Oyate Health Center

When Aaron Circle Bear entered an underground cellar on the Sioux San Hospital grounds, he found a cache of N-95 masks, purple top sani-wipes, gloves, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) that he said was “all covered in mold.” Some of the moldy PPE is now being used by hospital staff.

Circle Bear was a security officer detailed to the Oyate Health Center which is under Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board, and had entered the cellar and first saw the moldy PPE during the transition from IHS to Oyate.

“At that time it was in that transitional time and everything had kind of stopped,” he said. “We couldn’t do anything.”

Purple top sani-wipes being stored in Oyate Health Center’s South Duplex waiting to be distributed for use. Mold on the labels and a manufacture date of 2009 indicate that they came from the underground cellar. More photos obtained by the Native Sun News show hundreds of moldy sani-wipe containers and boxed gloves with an orange stripe being stored in the South Duplex. Photo by Aaron Circle Bear
The cache of PPE was bioterrorism equipment from nearly 10 years ago. Oyate had not continued the bioterrorism practices and relocated the equipment to the cellar from a large building on the grounds known as the Lakota Lodge. The Lakota Lodge was climate controlled.

All of the bioterrorism equipment can be identified by an orange stripe painted across the top, and a manufacture date of 2009 or earlier. The cellar “is where everything became moist and moldy,” Circle Bear said. “There is no ventilation down there.”

Circle Bear went on a mission trip in March and returned when the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing. After his return, he noticed empty, moldy N-95 mask cases in the maintenance shop while on his security rounds.

Circle Bear said “I asked one of the maintenance guys that were there ‘where did you get these [masks]?’, and he said ‘from the underground cellar’ and I said ‘they aren’t using these are they?’ and he said ‘they are using these.”

At that time, Circle Bear went to the cellar and all of the N-95 masks had been removed. The moldy boxes of gloves and purple top sani-wipes were still there.

Circle Bear conveyed what he found to a few fellow co-workers, and those co-workers discontinued the use of the masks. He contacted Senator Thune’s office, and filed a complaint with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

When he went back to the cellar days later to take photos of the remaining moldy equipment, the orange striped purple top sani-wipes and gloves had been removed. One of Circle Bear’s co-workers said that they had observed employee’s removing the gloves.

Photos obtained by the Native Sun News show hundreds of orange striped purple top sani-wipes and gloves being stored in the South Duplex of Oyate Health Center waiting for distribution for use. More photos show the orange striped purple top sani-wipes in several work spaces. The photos show that a majority of the PPE awaiting distribution or in work spaces has mold on the packaging.

Circle Bear watched the orange striped purple top sani-wipes being used at a COVID-19 screening station and in the urgent care department.

Other photos of the cellar after the PPE was removed show extensive damage to packaging of the remaining bioterrorism equipment.

Posted by Great Plains Tribal Chairmen's Health Board on Thursday, June 18, 2020

The sani-wipes are officially named Super Sani-Cloth. PDI, the sani-wipes manufacturer, states on their website that “Sani-Prime Spray, Sani-Cloth AF3, Super Sani-Cloth, Sani-Cloth Plus and Sani-Cloth HB products have a shelf life of 24 months from date of manufacture.” The purple top sani-wipes do not only have moldy labels, but are also nearly 10 years expired since they were manufactured in 2009.

Circle Bear also spoke with a maintenance employee who was wearing a mask that he stated was from the cellar. That same maintenance employee stated that most of the masks from the cellar were ‘saved’, but some had to be thrown away.

A source that Circle Bear spoke with stated that they had attended a supervisors meeting where Melinda Sieveke, the housekeeping supervisor, proposed to take the masks home, wash them, and then return them to the hospital for use.

Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board issued a statement to the Native Sun News in regards to using the unfit PPE. It says “The Oyate Health Center is disappointed to learn from Native Sun News that a recently terminated employee has made allegations regarding distribution of defective of PPE to OHC employees. It is difficult to respond in detail to any allegation without having first reviewed the material used to support it. The Oyate Health Center’s number one priority is the health and wellness of our patients and staff. Any assertions that we have lapsed in our safety practices are false."


Support Native media!

Read the rest of the story on Native Sun News Today: Moldy PPE reportedly used at Oyate Health Center

Contact Travis at

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today

Join the Conversation
Trending in News
More Headlines