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The Sioux San Hospital site on Canyon Lake Road in Rapid City.

The Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board will soon operate most of Sioux San Hospital in Rapid City, which is set to undergo a multi-million dollar renovation. 

The health board, on behalf of the Oglala and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes, will take over most of the management from the Indian Health Service on July 21, according to a news release from the IHS. The IHS will continue to provide health care at the facility to all eligible patients. 

"IHS recognizes that tribal leaders and members are in the best position to understand the health care needs and priorities of their communities" and more than 60 percent of IHS funding across the country is administered by tribes, the release says. 

The IHS announcement comes after it said in December that it was terminating the transfer effort after the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council voted to rescind a resolution authorizing the health board to enter into agreements with IHS on the tribe’s behalf.

Charmaine White Face — a Lakota elder, former Oglala Sioux Tribe treasurer and spokesperson for the Sioux Nation Treaty Council — said she's worried that not everyone will receive health care, or quality health care, at Sioux San once the transfer is complete. 

"They're not a health care management system. They are an advocacy organization," and its headed by a social worker, not a doctor, she said of the health board. 

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White Face filed a cease-and-desist petition at the state court in Rapid City arguing that the health board is a state organization, not a tribal one, and therefore its agreement with the IHS is invalid. A hearing on the matter is set for 3:30 p.m. Friday. 

The IHS is also soliciting bids for a $80-120 million, 200,000 square-feet and eco-friendly facility at the Sioux San Campus on Canyon Lake Drive in west Rapid City that will serve as a "replacement" for the current facilities, according to a description of the project on the federal business opportunities website. The contract is expected to begin in late 2019, while design should last 10 months and construction is expected to take just over three years.

The main building at Sioux San was built in 1938 to treat tuberculosis patients, according to the project description. Before that, the campus served as a Native American boarding school. There are currently 29 buildings and three structures on the campus, and 19 of the buildings and two of the structures have "historical significance," the description says. 

The health board and three tribes had previously advocated for building an entirely new campus on a 25-acre plot of land on the east side of town donated by local developer Hani Shafai.

This story has been updated. The Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board will be taking over most of the operation of Sioux San on behalf of the Oglala and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes. The tribes will not be managing the hospital themselves. 

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— Contact Arielle Zionts at arielle.zionts@rapidcityjournal.com

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