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OST ambulance service workers will walk out Friday stating low pay and not enough workers

(Scarlett Lisjak)
Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 8:13 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) -President of the Oglala Sioux Nation, Kevin Killer made a Facebook post Tuesday, stating the the Oglala Sioux Tribe ambulance service workers and staging a walk out Friday at Midnight, raising the question of why?

The Pine Ridge Reservation is desolate landscape covering over 2 million acres of land, but this rural area is not quiet, it is the third busiest for ambulance services in the state. Supervisor for OST ambulance service, Nichelle Hawk-Hagan says all the calls they respond to are miles away, “because of the wide open spaces, even when we are fully staffed, we cant be everywhere, we just cant get everywhere we need to be.”

The struggle doesn’t end there, the OST ambulance service should have 42 medics, but in reality there are only 16. OST paramedic Cristy Hawk says they have to prioritize calls based on severity of the emergency, “we have someone over here having breathing difficulty, I am really sorry but your stomach ache, or stubbed toe is going to have to hold off and wait until we are able to get an ambulance to respond.”

While new Ambulance service workers start out at $8.89 an hour, Hawk-Hagen says she only had two pay raises in 15 years and the low pay is making it harder for workers to want to stay, “working 90 hours a week to make a livable wage is not livable, our people are getting sick, their tired, their getting hurt and some people just cant do it anymore they have to leave and do this same job somewhere else for twice as much money.”

In Kevin Killer’s Facebook post he addressed the walk out, by stating that “the Health and Human Services Committee will continue to meet and discuss solutions with the EMT director.”

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