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Rosebud emergency department to reopen Friday

The emergency department at the Rosebud Indian Health Service Hospital will reopen Friday, seven months after it was closed due to reports of poor conditions.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the Rosebud emergency department could resume operations at the hospital that U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem recently called "by far the worst" within the Great Plains Region of the IHS.

Noem, who spoke earlier this week at a legislative hearing to promote the Helping Ensure Accountability, Leadership, and Trust in Tribal Healthcare (HEALTTH) Act, issued a statement Thursday in response to the reopening of the hospital's emergency department.

"The dangerous conditions within the emergency department and the resulting diversionary status put too many lives in jeopardy," Noem said. "Today is a day of hope, but it is not the end our work."

At Tuesday's hearing, Noem said five babies were born in ambulances and nine people died in transit while being diverted away from the Rosebud Hospital due to the closure of the emergency room.

Both Noem and U.S. Sen. John Thune have visited the Rosebud facility since the emergency room closure in December, and both have proposed legislation to address the lack of accountability and quality health care within the IHS' Great Plains region.

Noem's legislation would encourage tribal leaders to administer hospitals and promote worker retention by making the existing student loan repayment program for employees tax free.

U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, who requested an audit of the financial mismanagement within the IHS earlier this month, said the reopening of the Rosebud emergency services department is a step in a positive direction, but maintained the need to audit the agency.

"The problems within the bureaucracy of IHS, along with the lack of adequate consultation with tribes, are ongoing," Rounds said in a statement released Thursday. "I still believe that an outside audit is the best first step toward making significant, systemic changes at IHS."

And Noem agreed that more work needs to be done to improve health care conditions in Rosebud.

"The problems that led to the grave conditions in Rosebud remain," Noem said. "Expansive reforms, such as giving tribes a role in running IHS facilities and reformulating how purchased-referred care dollars are allocated, must be made if we are going to see the lasting improvements tribal communities deserve."

While Noem has recently promoted more accountability to provide quality health services within the IHS, her Democratic opponent for the state's at-large seat in the House of Representatives questioned Noem's commitment to improving the IHS during her tenure in office.

State Rep. Paula Hawks, who will appear beside Noem on the ballot in November, applauded Noem's efforts earlier this week, but noted that the issues within the Great Plains region of the IHS "didn't begin overnight" and will not be solved with a single piece of legislation.