Sioux San Hospital expansion plan could take years

Rapid City, South Dakota (AP) 9-07

The Indian Health Service wants to triple the size of the Sioux San Indian Hospital at Rapid City, but it could be years before the work starts.

It would mean $51 million in new construction, more than doubling staff to about 300, and adding $41.5 million to its annual budget.

At a community meeting Wednesday night, officials said that best-case funding would mean construction in 2012.

IHS associate area director Jon Fogarty said that at the current level of funding for new construction, it would taking nearly 20 years to build a new Sioux San.

Still, Fogarty also said community support for the plan could speed funding.

“You get the public involved like they did at Ellsworth Air Force Base, and this will happen very quickly,” he said, referring to a successful effort to remove Ellsworth from a military base closure list two years ago.

Fogarty said an expanded Sioux San could have the economic impact of about a quarter the size of the air base, which is one of the region’s biggest employers.

There were some opponents to the IHS plan, in part because it would eliminate the few inpatient beds left at Sioux San.

Patient numbers do not justify inpatient services, IHS program analyst Sandy Coulter said, especially with Rapid City Regional Hospital so close. Rather, the IHS proposal would offer expanded hours for clinics, including an urgent-care clinic that would be open nights and weekends.

The IHS plan would add new services such as audiology, physical therapy, podiatry, a nutrition program, and an addiction outpatient program.

The dental clinic would have 24 chairs for adults and 12 for children, and a primary care clinic with nearly 50 exam rooms and offices.

New equipment in the plan would cost $12.5 million.

The expansion plan for Sioux San – 15 years in the making – has been approved in a “program justification document” and is fifth in line behind three new projects in Arizona and a clinic in Eagle Butte, Fogarty said.

Fogarty said since the start of the Iraq war, congressional funding to IHS for new construction has decreased from $80 million to $90 million each year to an average of $20 million the past three years.

Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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