Another Indian Health Service hospital in South Dakota is set to close its emergency room next week, the federal agency that runs it announced Tuesday.
IHS in a statement said it plans to temporarily close the emergency room of the Sioux San Hospital in Rapid City on September 20 while the agency works to update the facility, which is more than 60 years old. Tribal leaders expressed frustration and confusion at the decision that came without their approval.
Urgent care and outpatient services will remain available at the facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but individuals seeking emergency care must go to the nearest hospital four miles away in Rapid City. IHS officials said the diversion would allow the agency to work to fix parts of the aging hospital and to improve the quality of care available at the facility.
“Sioux San Hospital has a strong commitment to urgent care and will continue to provide urgent care services and all other current non-emergency care hospital services to patients in the Rapid City region,” Capt. Chris Buchanan, IHS Great Plains area acting director, said in a statement. “By shifting the focus of our clinicians to the services the vast majority of our patients require, we will be able to serve those patient populations more efficiently and effectively.”
An agency spokeswoman didn’t have a proposed re-opening date Tuesday afternoon, but said IHS agents are meeting “intensively” with tribal leaders and members of the The Joint Commission to determine when it will be safe to re-open the ER.
The Unified Tribal Health Board which overseas the Sioux San facility and is run by the Cheyenne River Sioux, Oglala Sioux and Rosebud Sioux tribes. William Bear Shield, chairman of the board and Rosebud Sioux tribal health board chairman, said leaders from the three tribes objected to the emergency room closing and were considering next steps to keep it open. Bear Shield said he worries the ER closing could become permanent and that the agency could aim to get out of its treaty responsibility to pay for tribal members’ health care.
“We’re just trying to make sure that there will be quality health care for those federally recognized tribal members,” Bear Shield said. “We don’t want this to be a long term fix.”
Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported that the Sioux San hospital was in “immediate jeopardy’ following a review that found the hospital’s patients were misdiagnosed or not treated in the facility’s emergency department.
Nine of 32 patients in sample cases reviewed weren’t given appropriate medical screening examinations when they arrived at the hospital’s emergency department, the report found. Some left the facility to get better care elsewhere, and others had to return on multiple occasions before being admitted to another facility.
IHS agents submitted a plan of correction to CMS to maintain the hospital’s ability to bill to Medicare and Medicaid, a key funding source.
Two other South Dakota IHS hospitals were on thin ice with CMS earlier this year following probes that found dangerous deficiencies in health care. The Rosebud IHS hospital operated without an emergency room for seven months while federal agents worked to improve it and to ensure health care provided there would be safe.
In the interim, patients were shuttled to the nearest emergency departments 44 and 55 miles away respectively. The federal agencies have since entered into agreements to keep Rosebud and Pine Ridge IHS hospitals funded.
The obstetrics and surgical departments of the Rosebud hospital have been closed since June following the death of a key staff member.
Article originally published at the Argus Leader.