Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  U.S. Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD) and John Thune (R-SD) and U.S. Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) today sent a letter to Indian Health Service (IHS) Director Dr. Charles Grim to express strong support for continued 24-hour service at the Wagner Service Unit's Emergency Room.

In the letter, which House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall also supported and signed, the delegation explained the vital role of 24 hour service at the Wagner facility and the burden that would be created by cutting back its hours of operation. Since IHS initially attempted to cut back hours in December 2005, there have been multiple efforts by the delegation as a whole and as individuals to ensure that the facility is not forced to decrease its services.

Full text of the letter to IHS Director Dr. Grim:

July 26, 2007

Dear Dr. Grim,

We are writing to express our strong support for continued 24-hour service at the Wagner Service Unit's Emergency Room. A reduction in operating hours is strongly opposed by both the Yankton Sioux Tribe, which the facility was constructed to serve, and the Wagner Community Hospital.

The current Wagner Service Unit is state of the art, pristine, well staffed and a huge benefit to the community at large. It not only serves Yankton Sioux Tribal members, but Ponca and Santee Sioux Tribal members from Nebraska, as well as Urban Indians from Sioux Falls. The Wagner Community Hospital has also expressed support for the continuation of 24-hour services to avoid being unjustly overwhelmed by the additional burden of the Indian Health Service (IHS) facility cutting back from 24-hour-a-day service. This is truly a situation that affects the entire community.

Continued 24-hour service at the facility is critical to the health and well-being of the Yankton Sioux Tribe and the surrounding community. The most recent impact analysis of the planned service reduction, contained in the 2005 IHS commissioned Sharpless report, explicitly acknowledges that with the facility's closing "it could be forecast that lives would certainly be lost" if the hours of service are reduced at the facility. In what can only be described as a life or death situation, it is imperative that the IHS maintain 24-hour-a-day service at this critically important facility.

Tim Johnson, U.S. Senate
John Thune, U.S. Senate
Stephanie Herseth, U.S. House of Representatives
Nick J. Rahall, II, Chairman, Natural Resources Committee, U.S. House of Representatives