Press Staff Writer
American Indians seeking emergency care at Cherokee Nation Hastings Hospital tomorrow may be in for a shock.
On Monday, tribal officials gave community members a guided tour of the hospital’s new Emergency Department and Urgent Care facility, which includes state-of-the-art technology and doubles the facility’s space from 4,000 to 8,000 square feet.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker’s voice was keyed with excitement throughout the tour, and he indicated he’s genuinely please with the care tribal citizens will receive.
“This is big excitement,” said Baker. “It doesn’t take long, walking through these halls and seeing this new facility, to see how much bigger, better and more efficient the facility is. Previously, we had six beds to one room in triage; now each triage room has its own bed, locking medicine cabinet and monitor. All the monitors are tied directly into the central desk, providing immediate reaction from staff should a patient require it.”
The new facility has 12 triage beds for the emergency department, along with a special trauma unit and a sealed contagious disease unit, which patients can access directly from outside without having to enter the public waiting area. The emergency room also features a special triage room for obstetrics/gynecology, which includes a private rest room, and a special triage room for those suffering mental incapacities, including a door that pulls down from the ceiling and locks to prevent patients from accessing items that could be used to harm themselves or others.
“Having all these services centrally located makes all the difference in the world; before, staff had to sometimes run all over the hospital to get what they needed to care for people,” said Baker. “All in all, we’ll be able to better provide for our people, and I think it’s pretty phenomenal.”
The Urgent Care side has 17 private examination rooms, and will be used to treat less serious, non-emergent situations. As in the emergency department, Urgent Care rooms each have an examination bed, sink and cabinets, as well as a locking medicine cabinet.
Cost to construct the facility was $7 million, and Baker said funding for the project came primarily from third-party billing, insurance, and “scrimping and saving” by the tribe.
District 1 Tribal Councilor Tina Glory Jordan attended the opening ceremony, as did Sen. Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah; Will Fourkiller, D-Stilwell; and Tahlequah City Hospital CEO Brian Woodliff.
“We outgrew our old emergency department so long ago,” said Glory Jordan. “This is so nice, and a long time coming.”
According to CN Hastings Hospital CEO Brian Hail, the medical center sees an average of 3,000 patients per month.
“Before, in our old emergency department, we cared for those patients using 11 semi-private rooms; now, we have 13 private rooms,” said Hail. “We now have the facilities and tools to provide the highest level of care to our patients. We have a place we can all be very proud of.”
Baker said he was on the hospital board at Hastings in 1995, and recognized then a new facility was needed.
“We were having major problems with our emergency room back then, but we just tried to make do,” said Baker. “The hospital was originally designed to see 40,000 patients per year. We see that many alone in the emergency room now. Our staff does a wonderful job at taking care of people, but it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out if you’ve got more beds, you can take care of more people.”
Hail said the new facility will also help attract new physicians.
“This will help us recruit from residency programs,” said Hail “It was hard to sell the old facility, and this will be a tremendous help.”