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Tribes Authorize Management Change for Sioux San Hospital

Management of the Rapid City Indian Health Services Hospital is in the early stages of transferring from the federal government to area tribes. The Oglala Sioux, Cheyenne River Sioux and Rosebud Sioux Tribes all authorize the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Health Board to operate the facility. 

The Sioux San hospital is a secondary care unit for members of those three tribes. Poor federal inspection results and last year’s proposed closure of the inpatient and emergency departments prompted the tribes to investigate other management options.

Willie Bear Shield is chairman of the Unified Tribal Health Board, which is made up of members of the three tribes the Sioux San Hospital mainly serves. He says it wasn’t easy for the tribes to reach a consensus on the best way to address management issues.

“As far as being able to give healthcare the attention that it needs we felt that Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Health Board would be the agency that was able to assist us,” says Bear Shield.

The Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Health Board is based in Rapid City and is governed by 17 tribes in the region. Jerilyn Church is CEO of the board and says the management change won’t negate the treaty obligations of the U.S. government.

“We are still going to hold the federal government accountable for providing the resources, but the tribes—under the management of the health board and under the direction and guidance of the Unified Health Board which consists of the three tribes only—will manage those services,” Church says.

Church adds that transferring management to the tribes will make the hospital eligible for additional federal grants beyond IHS funds.

Willie Bear Shield says other tribes in Oklahoma and Alaska have made a similar shift in hospital management and been successful. He says he’s proud of the three local tribes for taking solutions to healthcare services into their own hands.