A native South Dakota tribe is suing the federal government over closing down the only emergency room on the reservation. For the last five months, the Rosebud Sioux tribe has gone without emergency medical services. How long do they have to wait? Where can they go in the meantime? Is the government still a little pissed over Little Big Horn?

Is Hitch Hiking Covered As Medical Response?

How long does it take to walk 50 miles with a broken leg? That’s how far the South Dakota tribe has to go for medical help. Granted, it is most likely the injured person would be driven there in a pick up truck or an overly expensive ambulance ride but the image says it all.

Failure To Communicate

The lawsuit states that the federal government failed to communicate to Congress in the required amount of time and the hospital was shut down illegally. According to law, the findings are to be submitted to Congress a full year before any shutdown. Let’s see. Inspection in November. Shutdown in December only two weeks later? Government failing to communicate? Is anyone surprised?


The federal lawsuit was filed Thursday, 5-12-16, and is asking the feds to re-open the closed emergency room. The emergency is/was run by the local Indian Health Service (IHS). According to their website, the IHS is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The hospital was closed down in December of 2015 due to ‘serious failures’ found during a November inspection. The next question is: what are those failures? Were the failures made by the federal government run hospital or by the South Dakota tribe that seriously needs their health care?

In addition, Medicare and Medicaid will not let the local hospital bill for its patient services even if it re-opens — unless the IHS can come to an agreement over the staffing solution.

The Reported Failures

“Staffing changes and limited resources” were reported to lead to the shutdown. If that doesn’t make sense, here is a parable: a patient needed two doctors to receive health care. There was only one available so he was sent home. Yeah, that still doesn’t make sense.

The Real Reason?

The Rosebud Hospital has seen as many as 13,000 patients in one fiscal year. It only has 35 beds. That averages out to very little over one day per patient. The IHS’ solution was to take those beds away. Now, the nearest bed is 50 miles away in Winner, South Dakota or across the state line into Valentine, Nebraska. Since the South Dakota tribe’s hospital closure, two women have given birth before they could reach the nearest medical facility. Five people have died.

I have always believed coincidences are only 1 percent true at best. Anything else has the hidden hand of fate guiding it behind the scenes. But, fate comes in so many different forms. What coincidences do we have lurking in the shadows this time? The IHS, who also found the ‘failures’ and closed the hospital down, states they intend to privatize this hospital among many others in South Dakota and Nebraska. The big question here is: Was the IHS forced to shut down by Mediare and Medicaid refusing to fund patients services? Or is this the IHS rushing to privatize?

Privatization is neither better or worse than having your government run jobs and institutions. It is just different. The debate of privatization needs its own article on how that difference helps or hurts. Meanwhile, the South Dakota tribe is falling into the dark cracks between now and tomorrow by being forgotten by both sides. Here, the hidden hand of fate might be neglect.


Is Do-It-Yourself medical care next?