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Health | Law
Court rules in Yankton Sioux emergency room case


The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals won't force the Indian Health Service to keep operating an emergency room on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in South Dakota.

In the unanimous decision released on Monday, the court said legal principles prevent the Yankton Sioux Tribe from pursuing its claims against the IHS. The tribe failed to appeal final rulings in the case dating back to 2004, the opinion stated.

The tribe had won a preliminary injunction against the IHS but agreed to dissolve it after the agency was forced to conduct a new study about the emergency room, the 8th Circuit said.

IHS has provided 24-hour care at the emergency room but is cutting services in order to save money. A consultant hired by the agency acknowledged that "lives would certainly be lost" by the reduced hours.

South Dakota's Congressional delegation has been working to provide funds to keep the emergency room up and running. Provisions in the Senate's version of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act protect the service but the House has yet to take action on the bill.

Court Decision:
Yankton Sioux Tribe v. HHS (July 7, 2008)

Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendments:
S.1200 | H.R.1328

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