Rosebud Sioux Tribe kept in dark about IHS emergency room contract

Mary Smith, the leader of the Indian Health Service, meet with Great Plains tribal leaders in Aberdeen, South Dakota, on April 5, 2016. Photo from Department of Health and Human Services / Twitter

Leaders of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota are once again worried about the lack of communication they are seeing from the Indian Health Service.

The agency put out a request for contracts to manage the emergency room at the Rosebud Service Unit last month. But tribal officials told The Sioux Falls Argus Leader that they weren't told about the effort until April 7, the day before submissions were due.

"We've had some challenges during the time we've worked with IHS, but right now the lack of communication that is at an all-time low right now," health administrator Evelyn Espinoza told the paper.

The agency ended up extending the deadline to April 11, the paper reported. But it's not clear why the tribe wasn't kept informed, especially since Mary Smith, the acting head of the IHS, went to South Dakota earlier this month to focus on accountability issues in the Great Plains Area.

During the trip, Smith even told the tribe that the emergency room was not likely to reopen any time soon. It's been on "diversion" since December, forcing patients to travel 45 to 55 miles for urgent care

Still, it looks like the tribe wasn't the only one out of the loop. Avera Health, Sanford Health and Rapid City Regional Hospital -- the three largest health providers in South Dakota -- did not respond to the contract request, saying they didn't have enough information or enough time from the IHS to move forward.

Get the Story:
Tribal leaders say they were left out of IHS call for help (The Sioux Falls Argus Leader 4/23)
Could privatization solve IHS's chronic problems? (The Sioux Falls Argus Leader 4/22)

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Report:
In Critical Condition: The urgent need to reform the Indian Health Service’s Aberdeen Area (December 2010)

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