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Problems at the Indian Health Service hospital in Winnebago, Neb., have led the Winnebago Tribe to begin the process of taking over the management of the hospital from the federal government.

The Winnebago IHS facility is one of several in the Great Plains region that has been beset by problems in recent years, including failed inspections that led to the termination of the Winnebago hospital’s participation in Medicare and Medicaid.

The Winnebago Tribe said in a news release Monday morning that its tribal council voted Nov. 9 to initiate a process under federal law to take over the operation of the hospital by July 1, 2018.

“We believe the Tribe can improve the quality and access to care at the Hospital, and stabilize the management of the health system,” said a written statement from Tribal Chairman Frank White.

Under the new arrangement, some level of federal funding of the hospital would continue, although day-to-day management of the hospital would shift from IHS to the tribe. The federal government, through the IHS, serves the health-care needs of 2.2 million Native Americans across the nation, pursuant to longstanding treaties, laws and court decisions.

Elsewhere in the IHS Great Plains area, the hospital in Pine Ridge is scheduled to lose its Medicare and Medicaid payments Saturday due to multiple failed inspections.

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The IHS hospital in Rosebud has apparently come back from the brink of losing its Medicare and Medicaid certification. But tribal leaders there are threatening to ban some IHS officials from the reservation over an alleged lack of consultation about the awarding of a contract to a private company for staffing of the Rosebud hospital’s emergency department.

Those and other problems led U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., to introduce a bill seeking a wide-ranging audit of the IHS. Last week, he said during a Senate Indian Affairs Committee meeting that Native Americans are suffering “unimaginable horrors” at IHS facilities.

Contact Seth Tupper at

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Enterprise Reporter

Enterprise reporter for the Rapid City Journal.