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Native Sun News: Lakota patients complain about IHS service





The following story was written and reported by Karin Eagle, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.


Fred Koebrick of the Indian Health Service.

RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA –– Complaining about Indian Health Service is nothing new in Indian country. Seeing those complaints culminate in a direct, sought-after result is what is rare. A group of Lakota people from the Rapid City community claim to have accomplished exactly that.

The complainants have been meeting at the Woyatan Lutheran Church in North Rapid every week since May of last year. The purpose of these meetings has been to receive and compile a list of complaints about the care provided at the Rapid City IHS, or Sioux San Hospital.

Specifically, the complaints, which came from patients, as well as Sioux San employees, have been leveled against the IHS service unit as it stood under the direction of Fred Koebrick, chief executive officer.

Koebrick, originally from El Reno, Okla., and a member of the Cheyenne and Caddo tribes, has a long history of working with IHS, beginning as a property manager. He later went on to become an assistant director and CEO of several IHS facilities.

One of the complaints against Koebrick by the Rapid City group is that he never earned a college degree, despite all of his professional achievements. Just prior to his latest stint in Rapid City, Koebrick was CEO of an outpatient clinic in Minnesota on the White Earth Reservation.

Mark Lone Hill organized the first forum to hear grievances about the services provided by the Rapid City IHS. The first meeting was held on May 20, 2011. Nearly 80 people showed up to voice their complaints. Amidst angry voices and emotional tears, the stories were told about ill treatment and disrespect for the Lakota people who receive almost all of their health care through Sioux San.

Among those present for this first meeting alongside community members were Koebrick and Sandy Massey, Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s (R-SD) West River constituent services representative.

Dick Boyd, Sicangu Lakota, a former employee of IHS, said Rapid City Indians are the forgotten Indians.

“Get it in writing. Try to get a system going, otherwise our grandchildren are going to be standing up here with the same complaints we’re hearing here tonight. You can do it, you have the means,” Boyd said during that first meeting.

Koebrick responded to many of the complaints, including one where he was questioned about his alleged lack of credentials. He said that although he did not have a college degree, he was qualified for the job of running a large IHS facility because he had more than 26 years of experience.

“In 2009 we had 109,000 service visits. Then in 2010 we had 128,000 service visits – that’s an increase in one year of more than 20,000 service visits,” said Koebrick.

When contacted at home by Native Sun News for confirmation of his purported removal, Koebrick said that he is under legal obligation to refrain from making comments concerning personnel issues, including his own. He referred Native Sun News to the IHS Aberdeen Area Office.

Courtney Mallen, public affairs representative for the Aberdeen Area Office, affirmed Koebrick’s statement that no information was being given to the media concerning his alleged removal.

On Feb. 28, Vina Conroy of Sioux San’s business office confirmed that former deputy CEO Allen Davis has been appointed acting CEO.

(Contact Karin Eagle at staffwriter2@nsweekly.com)