A Rapid City, S.D.-based health care clinic for pregnant Native American women has seen a significant drop in patient since April of last year.
The Native Women’s Health Clinic is contracted to provide obstetric and gynecologic services for eligible Indian women.
South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB)’s Lee Strubinger reports.
According to a health care program review by Indian Health Service obtained by SDPB, Native Women’s Health Clinic had about 4,800 visits in 2021.
It saw a more than 50% reduction in visits in 2022.
Since last April, the number of visits has been zero, due to a lack of providers.
That report came out last June.
The Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST) holds a contract to operate the clinic through the Indian Self-Determination Act.
The tribe is required to monitor the quality of health care provided.
SDPB asked OST Tribal President Frank Star Comes Out whether the clinic has seen any patients since April of last year.
He says some tribal leaders have recently visited the clinic.
“Right now, due to a lack of funding in these programs, it’s a tough deal. We’re addressing that and hopefully we can better that program and fit the needs of our people and the staff.”
According to the most recent agreement between OST and the Indian Health Service (IHS), the tribe receives over $1.5 million to run the Native Women’s Health Care program.
The June IHS report says the clinic has not fulfilled its contractual obligations to provide comprehensive women’s health services, resulting in fragmented prenatal care which has been felt by patients and medical providers in Rapid City.
Patients are referred to either the Black Hills Pregnancy Center or Oyate Health Center.
The clinic, which is run by OST, is located in a wing of the old Sioux San building, which is managed by Oyate Health Center—a separate tribal entity that provides healthcare for Native Americans.
Star Comes Out says talk is on the table about letting Oyate Health take over the program.
“It is one of the tribe’s programs. That talk is on the table of letting Oyate Health handle that. I really can’t give you an answer of who is going to lead that charge right now. It’s on the table and it has to go through tribal council.”
According to data from the South Dakota Department of Health, American Indians make up 44% of all pregnancy-associated deaths in the state.
The rate is four times higher than white women.
Nikolski School on Umnak Island in Alaska plans to reopen for students next year after being closed for more than a decade.
The Aleutian Regions School District made the decision to reopen the school at a special meeting last Thursday.
As KUCB’s Sofia Stuart-Rasi reports, the school expects to have enough students to qualify for state funding.
Umnak Island families with at least ten school-aged children are committing to attend the public school next year, reaching the minimum student count for state funding.
School district board members say they are thrilled about the reopening.
They’ve seen closures in their district, as well as trends around the state and country.
“Yay for those kids!”
Lisa Holsinger is a school board member in Adak, which had to close its school last year due to low enrollment.
The only school operating in the Aleutian Region School District this year is the Yakov E. Netsvetov School in Atka.
Mark Snigaroff is a school district board member there.
“I’m so happy we got another school. Thought we were going to be the only school in the district.”
The Nikolski School closed down in 2009 because of low enrollment, but families decided to stay on the island and home-school their children.
With its Unangax community, Nikolski is reputed to be one of the oldest continuously occupied villages in the world.
Mike Hanley is the superintendent of the Aleutian Regions School District.
He says he worked closely with local families to gauge their interest in reopening the public school.
“They’re longtime Nikokski families, that is their home. And now their kids are school-age.”
The search for a Nikolski School teacher is underway.
Meanwhile, Hanley is working with the state to ensure all paperwork is in place for a smooth reopening this August.