Cherokees to Build New Health Care Facilities

The Cherokee Nation has announced plans to construct several new health care buildings in the coming years as part of a comprehensive health care center that would include W.W. Hastings Indian Hospital.
“We have the opportunity to create the best health care center in northeastern Oklahoma,” said Chad Smith, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. “We can’t wait for someone else to do it, we’ve got to be ready to do it ourselves.”
The current space at W.W. Hastings is far less than the more than 330,000 SF needed to operate the facility at its current patient load. In 2007, there were more than 244,000 patient visits at the hospital, compared to a patient load of about 60,000 visits at the time the hospital was built.
Currently, there is no federal plan in place to expand the space, resulting in long waiting times to patients with appointments and those in need of emergency services, as well as long waiting lists for patients needing preventative health services and exams.
“Right now, the W.W. Hastings facility sees approximately four times the number of patients each year in the space needed for the 1984 patient level,” said Melissa Gower, group leader for Cherokee Nation Health Services.
“In addition, approximately 25-30 percent of the facility is being utilized for non-patient care. This is part of what has created the long wait times patients must endure on their visits for services.”
Plans for the new complex include five new buildings. One of the structures in the plan is a 200,000-SF health care facility, which would nearly triple the amount of space for treatment at the site. Another building would house new surgery facilities, and other buildings include facilities for new doctors, a medical storage facility and a health programs and services building.
All of the buildings are planned for a 45-acre site the Cherokee Nation owns adjacent to Hastings.
The proposed new facilities could include partnerships with Tahlequah City Hospital and mirror successful joint programs that Cherokee Nation and TCH currently operate, including a cardiac imaging center.
“These plans are on the drawing board, but none if it can happen unless the Cherokee Nation’s health care system and Hastings are managed by the Cherokee Nation,” Smith said. “We can do much more with this site and this facility than the federal government has been able to do. Working with the council, we can add the space that is so desperately needed to provide the best quality health care for our people.”

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