Native American health board to operate most of the hospital

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A health board that advocates for Native Americans in the Great Plains will soon operate most of Sioux San Hospital in Rapid City.

The Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board, on behalf of the Oglala and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes, will take over most of the hospital’s management from federal Indian Health Service, according to a news release from the agency. The transfer is scheduled for July 21. The Indian Health Service will continue to provide health care at the hospital, which serves Native Americans, the Rapid City Journal reported.

The Indian Health Service “recognizes that tribal leaders and members are in the best position to understand the health care needs and priorities of their communities,” according to the statement, which said more than 60 percent of the agency’s funding is administered by tribes.

In December, the Indian Health Service said it was terminating negotiations over hospital management after the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council dropped its support of the transfer to the health board.

Charmaine White Face opposes the pending transfer. White Face — a Lakota elder, former Oglala Sioux Tribe treasurer and spokeswoman for the Sioux Nation Treaty Council — said she is concerned that not everyone will receive health care, or quality health care, at Sioux San once the transfer is complete.

“They’re not a health care management system. They are an advocacy organization,” White Face said of the health board. She has filed a cease-and-desist petition in state court in Rapid City, arguing that the health board is a state organization — not a tribal one — and that its agreement with the Indian Health Service is invalid. A hearing is scheduled Friday.

Sioux San is set to undergo a multi-million-dollar renovation. The Indian Health Service is soliciting bids for an $80 to $120 million, 200,000 square-feet and eco-friendly facility at the Sioux San campus in west Rapid City that will serve as a replacement for the current facilities.

The main building at Sioux San was built in 1938 to treat tuberculosis patients. Before that, the campus served as a Native American boarding school.

The health board and the three tribes previously advocated for building an entirely new campus on a 25-acre plot of land in east Sioux Falls.