The Indian Health Service has hired AB Staffing Solutions of Arizona to run the emergency room at the IHS hospital in Rosebud. IHS closed the Rosebud ER last December due to low-quality care. Since that closure, Indianz.com reports that six tribal members have died while being transported to other emergency rooms. The IHS–AB Staffing Solutions contract does not specify when the Rosebud ER will reopen.
The new contract also puts AB Staffing Solutions in charge of IHS ERs at Pine Ridge and Winnebago, Nebraska. AB Staffing Solutions has numerous other contracts to provide health care staff for IHS, the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the federal prison system, and the National Institutes of Health.
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe would have preferred a local provider:
“We know Avera (Health), we know Sanford (Health),” Rosebud Sioux council representative William Bear Shield said referring to two health systems based in South Dakota. “If it would have been any one of those two, I would have said ‘Great. I feel comfortable.’ But we are going to have to see what this AB Staffing Solutions is about. We are concerned, that’s for sure” [Regina Garcia Cano, “Feds Hire Contractor to Run ERs at Hospitals on Reservations,” AP via ABC News, 2016.05.17].
Democratic candidate for U.S. House Rep. Paula Hawks would have preferred something other than more privatization:
“I am concerned that we are shifting responsibility, not holding ourselves accountable to deliver the type of visionary leadership needed to improve living conditions in Indian country. We’ve seen through the privatization of EB-5 and the Gear Up education grants, these shifts result in less accountability, not more. To me—this is a Washington solution, pass the buck and affix blame elsewhere,” said Hawks.
…“These are complex situations that require comprehensive solutions. Education, health care, economic development—all are so interrelated that you can’t begin to tackle problems in one area without quickly stepping into them in another. Contracting to a private entity might deliver a Band-Aid, but it doesn’t provide the type of long-term planning needed in tribal communities,” Hawks said [Hawks for House campaign, press release, 2016.05.17].
But whoever provides the services, IHS’s first priority is to get qualified doctors and nurses in place to offer the quality emergency care Rosebud residents are entitled to under treaty.