(SD)-IHS Closing, Replacing Sioux San Hospital
RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - The Indian Health Service says it will permanently close the emergency and inpatient departments at the Sioux San Hospital in Rapid City as part of a plan to replace the 80-year old facility with a 200,000 square-foot health center in 2021.
Acting IHS Great Plains Area Director Jim Driving Hawk says Sioux San began focusing on outpatient and urgent care services last year and still has a strong commitment to urgent care while continuing to focus on improving patient care.
The IHS says the decision to close Sioux San is intended to actually give better care because the existing facilities aren't up to modern standards and because it's so close to Rapid City Regional Hospital that there's a wasteful duplication of services.
The planned outpatient clinic would combine an expansion of existing services, such as primary and dental care, with new services such as audiology and physical therapy.
The decision to close Sioux San has drawn a cold response from the Unified Tribal Health Board - which includes representatives from the Pine Ridge, Rosebud, Cheyenne River, and Crow Creek reservations. The board plans to file a class action lawsuit against IHS in light of the closure.
Public Affairs Specialist Joshua Barnett says the IHS has continued to evaluate the needs of patients in partnership with the tribes and provide updates to tribal leaders on the impact of the temporary but multi-year closure of the Sioux San emergency department.
Barnett says data continues to show that an outpatient ambulatory health center with an urgent care program provides the safest and most efficient care for the agency's patient population in the Rapid City area.
Congresswoman Kristi Noem is skeptical, pointing out that the IHS has "time and again" failed to live up to its responsibilities under treaties to provide health care to tribal members.
Noem says she's concerned the plan to close Sioux San's inpatient and emergency services is another example of this reality, with "questions that still need to be answered about the burden the plan will place on area hospitals as well as the impact it will have on the care tribal members receive."
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