Oyate Health Center launches new care model, looks for expansion
RAPID CITY, S.D. – A new flow of healthcare is underway at the Oyate Health Center after the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board launched a new model of care this week. With the goal of efficiency and greater service to patients in mind, leaders also aim to blend tradition with modern medicine.
GPTCHB took over roughly 80 percent of care at Sioux San Hospital last summer, while still sharing the remainder with the Indian Health Service. The takeover sparked controversy and legal proceedings but the state ultimately sided with the board. Now, a focus on the patient has allowed for changes at the Oyate Health Center.
At the Sioux San in west Rapid City, urgent care services have been offered for the past two years and clinical services have been offered for much longer. But a recent community health assessment has provided feedback on long waiting room times and at least a six week wait for appointments, leading medical staff to look for a change.
Beginning Jan. 20, the board introduced a new “integrative care” model to patients at the Oyate Health Center. In the short term, the most notable changes will be shorter service hours and expanded teams of care during the day.
By cutting hours of service from 24 hours to 6:00 a.m. to midnight, officials say staff is better allocated to the busiest hours.
“That was not a very good business practice when you consider you still have to have lab and radiology and all those services available during those hours as well,” said Jerilyn Church, CEO of GPTCHB.
The other hope for the restructuring is that staff will come to the patients within the facility, and not the other way around. And those providers will be more consistent to patients than years past.
“The patient is going to see the same provider every time,” said Church. “They’re going to build a relationship with their provider, as well as the nurse case manager, pharmacist.”
Though with the shorter hours, patients in need of emergency services between midnight and 6 a.m. are urged to go to the emergency room and contact the clinic within 72 hours of the visit to ensure the visit is covered.
In the long term, the Oyate Health Center will tie in traditional values with modern medicine.
“We know there’s a place for allopathic medicine and there’s traditional wisdom that our ancestors used in seeking wellness so one of the things we’re able to do now as a tribally run organization is integrate those philosophies,” said Church.
To achieve that combination, Church says a cultural advisory committee is in the works to gather input from the community while still looking towards community elders to guide the process.
Mental health care is another aspect that looks to be expanded. Church says IHS funding for mental health services doesn’t meet the community needs. Under new management, they are able to expand the resources and look for new sources of funding.
The clinic is focusing on primary care and urgent care for the time being. Residing in Sioux San, sights are already set on expansion. A new facility, built in partnership with the Indian Health Service, is still at least two years away.
In the meantime, Church says staff is having to make accommodations in the current facility to make the new model work. The new building will be tailored to the care team model.
“In the new building, we’ll be expanding our service line substantially to include medical specialties and more,” said Dr. Mark Harlow, Chief Medical Officer at the Oyate Health Center. “Dental services, audiology services, really the full gamut of healthcare needs our citizens are entitled to expect.”
Offering the full range of services aims to give a population, often fighting for care, an opportunity to be one step ahead of medical challenges.
“The more we’re able to operate from that perspective, the healthier our community will be,” said Church.