Health Issues

Lee Strubinger / SDPB

Regional Health in Rapid City is announcing a multi-year renovation and expansion project.
The main hospital campus is slated to expand by about 250-thousand square feet.

Regional Health officials are calling the plans the most significant renovation and expansion project in its history.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A Sioux Falls doctor says insurance status often dictates resources available for meth users who want to break free from the drug. Health leaders say meth is a dangerous substance with devastating physical, mental, and social ramifications.

A typical poster condemning meth use displays a disheveled person with a miserable gaze, ashen skin and open sores. Doctor Jennifer Tinguely with Falls Community Health in Sioux Falls says meth affects every system of the body. She says the drug triggers a rush of hormones including dopamine, adrenaline, and serotonin.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Thousands of South Dakotans must change doctors and clinics if they want their health insurance to cover the care. Starting January 1, 2017, Sanford Health no longer accepts Avera insurance including DakotaCare, and Avera Health in South Dakota isn't taking Sanford Health Plan insurance. That leaves some people who can't afford to pay out of pocket with little choice, and it requires others to leave trusted medical providers to find new services that work with their insurance.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Avera Health is removing its South Dakota hospitals, clinics, and physicians from the Sanford Health Plan. The change means people who have Sanford insurance won’t have coverage if they go to Avera’s providers. It’s the latest development in a health care clash among the state’s two largest health systems.

Black Hills VA Hosts Mental Health Summit

Sep 14, 2016
Courtesy Veterans Administration

The VA Black Hills Health Care System is hosting a series of mental health summits designed for veterans, their families, veterans’ service organizations and local agencies. The goal of the events is to create collaborative efforts to enhance the mental health and well-being of veterans and their families.

IHS To Close Sioux San ER September 20th

Sep 13, 2016
wrong picture
Lee Strubinger / SDPB

Indian Health Service officials are temporally closing the emergency room at Sioux San Hospital in Rapid City.  Officials say the closure is meant to improve overall care and begin renovations on the facility. Officials do not have an immediate date for when ER services might be resumed.  

The VA Black Hills Health Care System plans to end service to veterans in the Eagle Butte, Isabel and Faith areas by October. We spoke to the VA’s administrator as well as a Lakota veterans’ representative on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation and files this report.

It’s a 290 mile roundtrip from Eagle Butte to the Black Hills VA health care facility in Sturgis.

Sanford Health

Eugene Hoyme, M.D., and Amy Elliott, Ph.D. discuss new FASD Diagnostic standards. The two were part of a group of experts who developed clinical guidelines for diagnosing fetal alcohol spectrum disorders based on an analysis of more than 10,000 individuals involved in studies of prenatal alcohol exposure.


Cardiologists in Rapid City are using a new pacemaker that is fully implanted inside a person’s heart. The FDA only recently approved the technology. Doctor Kelly Airey with Rapid City Regional Hospital performed the first procedure to place the pacemaker.  Her patient is impressed.

Paul Baldwin has had two traditional pacemakers to normalize and regulate his heartbeat. When his latest device’s battery was up for replacement, he talked with Dr. Kelly Airey about his options. Baldwin says she recommended a tiny pacemaker that’s self-contained within his heart.

South Dakota Public Broadcasting

West Nile has killed an elderly South Dakotan. State Health Department leaders say the person lived in Yankton County and was in the age range of 80 to 89. That case is one of dozens reported this summer, and officials looking to Labor Day expect even more infections.

South Dakota ended 2015 with 40 cases of West Nile Virus. State epidemiologist Lon Kightlinger says 2016 so far almost doubles last year’s total.

"We’re having a fairly heavy year this year with West Nile," Kightlinger says. "We’ve had 74 cases reported, and the number’s growing every day."

When you hear Robotic Surgery – you may think that a robot is doing the procedure – not so. Joining me is Dr. Brad Thaemert – he’s a general surgeon with Surgical Institute of South Dakota and also Dr. Molly Uhing – with Avera Medical Group Obstetrics & Gynecology. They joined me in the studio earlier this week and we begin with the explanation of what Robotic Surgery is.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

South Dakotans who don’t have insurance are more likely to skip cancer screenings. Figures from the South Dakota Department of Health show insurance status affects patients’ preventative care decisions.

Health leaders are examining cancer screening rates, and they say a stark division emerges when breaking down the numbers.

Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon leads South Dakota’s Department of Health. She says people without insurance receive fewer cancer screenings than people with health coverage.

Dakota Midday: SDHOF Inductee Dr. Richard Holm

Aug 24, 2016

Dr. Richard Holm, host of On Call with the Prairie Doc on SDPB-TV, is a 2016 inductee into the South Dakota Hall of Fame. He visited with Dakota Midday host Lori Walsh to discuss practicing medicine during the age of electronic medical records, a legacy of educating the public, and how to give your doctor permission to step away from protocols and see you as an individual human being. Holm is a Full Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine.

Avera To Build Cancer Center In Pierre

Aug 23, 2016

Avera Health plans to build a new cancer center in Pierre.  The Helmsley Charitable Trust donated money to pay for the facility.  

Avera’s new cancer facility is going to be named the Helmsley Center after a 10 million dollar donation from the Helmsley Charitable Trust.


Sanford oncologist and cancer researcher Dr. Steven Powell was among a team of researchers who discovered that the drug olanzaphine significantly improved nausea prevention in patients who were receiving chemotherapy for cancer treatment. The findings were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.


STDs Hit 30 Year High In SD

Jul 18, 2016
Department of Health

State health officials warn that sexually transmitted diseases are at a 30 year high in South Dakota. 

In South Dakota this year there are over 2,000 cases of chlamydia, over 600 cases of gonorrhea and 17 cases of syphilis.

Lon Kightlinger is the state epidemiologist for the South Dakota Department of Health. He says rates of all sexually transmitted diseases are increasing.

After 7 Months, Rosebud Emergency Room Reopens

Jul 14, 2016

The emergency room at the Indian Health Service run Rosebud Hospital is reopening after being closed for more than seven months.

The head of IHS says this is the first of many improvements for Rosebud and other Great Plains tribal hospitals.


Federal officials shut down the Rosebud Hospital Emergency Room in December following reports of unsanitary conditions and malpractice. Since then, tribal officials say nine people have died in-route to the next nearest hospitals. That distance could be as much as 50 miles away.

Google Images

During his State of the Union address President Barack Obama announced the establishment of a new initiative to accelerate cancer research called Cancer Moonshot. The initiative comes with a billion dollar pledge and is being led by Vice-President Joe Biden. The goal is to make therapies available to more patients and also improve early detection. Last week the vice president held a nationwide summit. We are recreating the panel that met at Avera Health in Sioux Falls on Dakota. Midday.

Guests Include:

Dr. Luis Rojas - Avera Medical Group Gynecologic Oncology

Sarah Kuhnert is a survivorship nurse with the mySurvivorMentor program at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls. mySurvivorMentor is a new program that is currently available to breast cancer patients. It links survivors to walk the cancer journey with newly diagnosed patients. 

Erin Mairose

The Sioux Falls Health Department is monitoring for the presence of mosquitoes that could transmit the Zika Virus. The city has three new traps designed to attract species of mosquitoes known to carry the Zika virus. Denise Patton is with the Sioux Falls Health Department. She says the city doesn’t expect to catch anything unusual. But in case a new mosquito is introduced into the state, they want to be the first to know.

Department of Heath

This fall kids entering 6th grade are required to get a vaccine to protect against meningitis. The change in vaccine requirements for 6th graders results from a bill passed by the 2016 legislature.

Lee Strubinger / SDPB

Federal lawmakers hope to create institutional change at the Indian Health Service with a bill meant to protect whistleblowers, increase oversite and implement leadership changes. The bill was discussed at length in Rapid City late last week.

Several hours of testimony and hearings on what it’s like to receive care from IHS hospitals was meant to give lawmakers an idea of the culture at several Great Plains area hospitals.

Wiki Commons

Tribal members from Nebraska and South Dakota packed the Rapid City council chambers Thursday to discuss the IHS Accountability Act of 2016.

It’s a reform bill meant to tackle mismanagement by network of hospitals both on and off reservations.

South Dakota U.S. Senator John Thune introduced the bill last month, and a panel is seeking input on the measure.

The federal government is required to provide healthcare to tribal members. But many Native Americans even forgo the care they are guaranteed, due to poor conditions at Indian Health Services hospitals.


June has been named as Cancer Immunotherapy Awareness Month as part of the ongoing effort to bring awareness to how it's revolutionizing cancer treatment. Dr. Steven Powell discusses the latest research in Immunotherapy.

Cancer Immunotherapy uses the body's own immune system to target and attack cancer cells throughout the body. Scientists are working on improving these therapies by combining them with other types of cancer treatments to make them as effective as possible.

American Medical Association

The American Medical Association wants to see more diabetic lifestyle modification programs. Roughly 86 million Americans are estimated to be pre-diabetic, meaning many people may develop diabetes if they don’t change diet and exercise choices.

Steven Stack is President of the American Medical Association. Stack says he would like to see more programs developed to prevent chronic illnesses before patients need treatment.

 Indian Health Service facilities in Pine Ridge and Rosebud were closed earlier.  The move comes alongside allegations the IHS facilities are failing to meet basic standards of service and care. Now, the U-S Senate Committee for Indian Affairs is planning a hearing in South Dakota in June.  

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A Pierre man is alive because first responders used a medication to reverse the effects of a drug overdose. Officials credit the drug Narcan for saving the man’s life.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley says emergency crews responded to a call in Pierre Monday night for a man who needed medical attention.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A United States Senator and a state lawmaker agree that the federal government is failing to provide adequate health care to Native Americans. United States Senator John Thune and South Dakota State Senator Troy Heinert see different solutions to ongoing problems with the Indian Health Service.

U-S  Senator Thune has legislation in Congress aimed at comprehensive reform for federal health services for Native Americans. He says the bill makes it easier to fire ineffective IHS leaders, examines whistle-blower protections, and requires fiscal accountability so patient care funds actually make it to patients.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Avera is launching the first South Dakota-based study to track twins. The health organization’s Institute for Human Genetics has partnered with the world’s leading twin registry out of the Netherlands for seven years. Now the Avera Twin Register will collect and analyze DNA from twins.

Doctor Dave Kapaska is the regional president and CEO of Avera McKennan in Sioux Falls. He highlights how people are fascinated by multiples as he introduces two Avera physicians who are twins and mixes them up in the process.

Photo by Jim Kent

The Full Circle Martial Arts Academy of Rapid City has expanded its circle to include the Pine Ridge Reservation. We visited Oglala Lakota College for a martial arts demonstration by Lakota youth who are finding a path toward defending themselves, staying in shape and gaining more confidence in themselves and everything they do.

It’s a cold, windy, overcast Saturday afternoon on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Snow or rain is in the air.