Cherokee Nation Moves To Assume Hastings Hospital

The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council voted 13 to 4 to assume operations of W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah during a special meeting Thursday in Tahlequah.
All Tribal Council members were present for the vote. Councilors Bill John Baker and Tina Glory-Jordan, representing Cherokee County, and Councilors Jodie Fishinghawk and Joe Crittenden, representing Adair County, voted against the expanded health care measure.
The Cherokee Nation is scheduled to officially assume operations of the hospital on October 1.
Current and former employees of both Cherokee Nation and Indian Health Service alike said this change will be a great opportunity to improve health care for Native Americans in the area.
Dr. David Randall, Cherokee Nation Director of Podiatry, said he has seen both the Cherokee Nation and Indian Health Service programs in his five years of being assigned at Hastings, and has seen first-hand the quality of medical care provided by the physicians at Hastings.
Other health care professionals at the hospital agreed.
“I think it’s great,” said Martha Mathis, Cherokee Nation Public Health Nurse stationed at Hastings. “The (Indian Health Service) doctors we’ve talked to seem to think that the change will be good, as do many of the patients we see out in the field.”
Mathis’ colleague, Carolyn Holbird, also a Cherokee Nation Public Health Nurse assigned to Hastings, agreed.
“After the initial announcement and the workers here had time to think about this opportunity, I think many are looking forward to the change,” Holbird said. “I think they will find Cherokee Nation very good to work for and work with.”
Several hospital patients also expressed excitement about many of the new services and buildings planned for the site as part of the Cherokee Nation’s long-term health vision, and many said they were anticipating shorter waiting times for exams and services.
In July, the Cherokee Nation announced its plan to construct several new buildings in the coming years as part of a comprehensive health care center that would include a new 200,000 SF health care facility, a new surgery center, and new buildings for doctors, medical storage and health care programs and would incorporate W. W. Hastings Hospital as well. The buildings are planned for a 45-acre site next to the hospital.
“It’s going to be great,” said Karen Monks of Tahlequah. “For me, it will mean no more traveling to other health centers for certain exams, and it will be less waiting for prescription refills. This is going to be positive for all Native Americans in the area.”
Last year, the hospital recorded about 244,000 patient visits in a space meant to accommodate 60,000 patient visits, resulting in nearly four-times the number of patient visits per year than was planned for the existing space.
“I think it’s going to be good. I just hope this means we will get some more pediatric doctors here at the hospital,” said Valerie Maher of Tahlequah.
Maher’s hope for a pediatrician could come to pass. It is anticipated that assumption of services by the Cherokee Nation will greatly increase the amount of funding available for health care services. In addition to the amounts transferred from Indian Health Service, new funding will become available to the Nation that is not available to the hospital. This additional funding would provide opportunities for more health care professionals in all programs, including pediatrics.
Cherokee Nation Tribal Council Member Dr. Bradley Cobb, representing Washington and Tulsa counties, said that he has previously worked as a doctor for a federal facility and knows the limitations placed on the federal system. For him the question was could the federal system get us to the point we wanted to be in health care. Cobb said the answer was no, because of federal limitations. “In the years to come, we will see the fruits of this decision we made tonight,” he said.
Mathis looked at a drawing of what W. W. Hastings was supposed to have originally looked like, and said for many years they were told by the federal government that additions would be made to the hospital, but that it never happened.
“Now, I might actually get to see a lot of these additions come to pass. I’m very proud the Cherokee Nation is assuming operations of the hospital, and eventually others will, too,” she said.

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