Thune tours Rosebud hospital, calls for accountability

ROSEBUD, S.D. (AP) – U.S. Sen. John Thune says the problems facing an Indian Health Service hospital in Rosebud are “life and death issues.’’

South Dakota’s senior senator toured the medical facility Friday with officials from the U.S. Public Health Service and Rosebud Sioux Tribal Health Administrator Evelyn Espinoza.

Federal inspections recently highlighted serious problems at the IHS hospitals on the Rosebud and Pine Ridge reservations. The regional office of the IHS closed the emergency department at the Rosebud facility two weeks after the inspection.

“Growing up out here, I’ve seen some of these problems, I’ve seen some of these challenges, and here I am 40 years later and they have the same problems, the same challenges,’’ Thune said.

Espinoza told Thune and reporters the lack of emergency services means ambulances can’t legally deliver a patient to the hospital.

She said a Rosebud man, who was on dialysis, needed an ambulance after feeling chest pains, but due to the closed emergency room, he had to be sent to the hospital in Valentine, Nebraska. The man died on Thursday night in an ambulance 15 miles from Valentine.

In October, inspectors visiting the hospital in Pine Ridge cited safety deficiencies including unlocked cupboards with syringes, needles and other equipment; unsecured drugs and medical records; an isolation room without gowns and masks; and doctors without proper credentials.

An inspection of the Rosebud hospital in November found conditions so alarming the emergency room was shut down. A patient having a heart attack wasn’t treated until 90 minutes after she arrived. Serious staffing shortages in the emergency room included vacancies for the supervising medical officer, a medical officer, two physician assistants and three clinical nurses.

Espinoza said she wants to look forward from the past problems and work with others to get the hospital functioning appropriately again for the people of the tribe, who have treaty rights to health care from the federal government.

“I don’t want to point fingers,’’ she said. “I want us to come together and use each other’s strengths.’’

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