The Pryor Times

October 27, 2012

CN approves $80 million for health center expansion


TAHLEQUAH — Pryor Times



TAHLEQUAH — The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council has unanimously approved sweeping improvements to the Cherokee Nation’s health system. Principal Chief Bill John Baker’s health plan could pump about $80 million into expanding or replacing the tribe’s eight health centers and W.W. Hastings Hospital. Tribal Council approval opens the door to seeking out more funding sources for full implementation.

“When I humbly asked the Cherokee people to be their chief, my promise was to make health a bigger priority in the Cherokee Nation than ever before,” said Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “This infusion of cash and resources will do just that. Improved health care facilities in Tahlequah and throughout the Nation will literally save Cherokee lives. My heart is filled with pride that we are able to make such an impact on the lives of our citizens for generations to come.”

The largest portion of the plan includes a new $50 million hospital to be built on tribally owned land near W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah. The new facility would become a surgical hospital and allow Hastings to become a complete out-patient center.

Other facilities are slated for replacement or major renovation under the plan:

Bartlesville Health Center—$7 million toward a completely new 28,000 square-foot-facility

Sam Hider Community Health Center in Jay—$7 million toward a new 28,000-square-foot facility

Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell—$7 million for a 28,000-square-foot expansion

Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw —$2 million in renovations

Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee— $3.2 million in renovations

The act would also devote $1.5 million to build a new Jack Brown Center in Tahlequah that treats citizens with drug and alcohol dependency.

“This collaborative effort between the council and administration shows how well we can work together, particularly when it comes to health care,” Dick Lay said, Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor for District 4 and health committee co-chair. “This legislation will improve important services for our citizens that will be absolutely life-changing. I’m happy we could come together as a unified body to make health care a priority for all Cherokees.”

“The Cherokee Nation as a whole wins with this. Health care affects everyone,” said Jodie Fishinghawk, Tribal Councilor for District 2. “We already provide outstanding health care, but this will take it to a whole new level.”

The Cherokee Nation is the largest tribal health system in the United States, with more than one million patient visits annually.

“This will dramatically improve the health and well-being of our citizens, but it’s also a great service to our non-Indian neighbors,” said Chief Baker.

“When the Cherokee Nation upgrades and replaces health centers, it alleviates pressure on other health care providers in the area, which is a service to the entire state of Oklahoma.”