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Indian Health Service announces contract to improve health services in Rosebud, Pine Ridge

The latest move made by the Indian Health Service could help the Rosebud and Pine Ridge hospitals provide quality health care on tribal land.

The IHS announced Wednesday a $700,000 contract to the independent nonprofit The Joint Commission to provide accreditation services for IHS medical facilities in eight states, including South Dakota.

The announcement comes months after the Rosebud IHS Hospital was forced to divert patients away from its emergency room due to poor conditions, which U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem has said resulted in the death of nine people during transit to other emergency rooms.

The contract with The Joint Commission will provide training and education to several IHS facilities, a federal-government-operated service providing health care to approximately 2.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives.

"This new contract underscores the IHS commitment to enhancing patient safety and ensuring high quality care for our patients," said Mary Smith, principal deputy director of the IHS, in a news release. "IHS is working with our tribal partners and with independent hospital quality experts to ensure that uniform processes for identifying any potential issues are in place, consistent with best practices in hospital administration."

The contract is meant to help IHS facilities like those in Rosebud and Pine Ridge meet the compliance checks conducted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). It was CMS that noted the deficiencies resulting in the diversionary status of the Rosebud emergency service.

According to the IHS, the contract will help the Rosebud and Pine Ridge hospitals meet the requirements laid out in the Systems Improvement Agreement between the IHS and CMS meant to boost the overall care provided at the facilities. Both hospitals will receive training on the CMS Conditions of Participation for the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Each member of South Dakota's congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. have all spoken out to improve IHS services in the state, with Noem and U.S. Sen. John Thune proposing separate accountability bills and U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds pitching a full audit of the IHS system