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Sioux San Hospital to be replaced

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - The possible changes are years off, but IHS officials say the agency plans to replace Sioux San Hospital with a new health care center that could cost $67 million.

Congress would have to fund the project, and federal funds are tight, said Lorraine Jewett, Sioux San's CEO.

The option preferred by the IHS is to demolish 16 buildings, including the main hospital building, and put all services in one new 140,000-square-foot building.

A second option would renovate the hospital and dental clinic and build a smaller new facility.

If funded, the time from design to completion would be about four years, according to a proposal by IHS.

The land and some of the buildings at Sioux San once were part of Rapid City Indian School, which opened in 1898 and closed in 1933. The school's main building burned down and was replaced with the current hospital, built in 1939 as Sioux Sanatorium to treat American Indians with tuberculosis.

Nineteen buildings on the 42-acre campus are eligible for registration as national historic places, and the site is eligible to be a historic district. Most of the historic buildings would be demolished under the renovation plans.

Before they can tear down historic buildings, IHS officials have to take steps to satisfy National Historic Preservation Act requirements - including identifying adverse effects, justifying demolition over preservation, and offering mitigation if demolition is the best option.

IHS also must consult with the appropriate historic preservation officers and tribes who might have cultural or religious ties to the property, officials said.

''At this point, we are working with Indian Health Services to develop a memorandum of agreement to avoid, minimize or mitigate the adverse effects,'' said Kate Divis, restoration specialist with South Dakota's State Historic Preservation Office.

Meanwhile, historian and author Donovin Sprague said he's concerned about possible grave sites on Sioux San's land. No graves are documented, but elders and former Sioux San employees tell of people, possibly students of the Indian school, buried on the campus, Sprague said.

''In the old days, they were just buried,'' he said.

Remains from any graves disturbed by construction would have to be returned to descendants or tribes under terms of Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, Sprague said.

Officials decided the new center would eliminate emergency services and inpatient care, which now consists of 32 beds. To offset the reduction in services, Sioux San plans to extend its evening and weekend clinic hours and ask for more money to contract with other health care providers, Jewett said.