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The Oklahoman: Cherokee Nation partners with Indian Health Service on Oklahoma hospital

February 25, 2016
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The Oklahoman - Staff Reports

The Cherokee Nation signed an agreement Wednesday with the Indian Health Service to secure the largest joint-venture funding project ever among tribes to build a 450,000-square-foot health center in Tahlequah.

The agreement allows for the Indian Health Service to fund the hospital expansion at an estimated $80 million or more per year. The funding would last a minimum of 20 years. Indian Health Service is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that funds and provides American Indian health care.

The agreement allows the Cherokee Nation to pay more than $150 million for an expansion to the existing 190,000-square-foot Hastings Hospital campus in Tahlequah, according to a news release. In the agreement, Indian Health Service will request funding for staffing and operating expenses every year for at least 20 years once the hospital reaches capacity. 

“This agreement secured with IHS will be absolutely transformative for the Cherokee Nation and our ability to deliver world-class health care for future generations in northeastern Oklahoma,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “This public-private partnership is going to create both construction and health care jobs and be a significant economic impact in our region.”

The new addition is expected to create jobs and expand specialty services currently not offered at Hastings, which the tribe has operated since 2008.

Other services included in the new facility will be ambulatory care, podiatry, a WIC program, audiology, dental care, eye care, primary care, specialty care, diagnostic imaging, a laboratory, a pharmacy, rehabilitation services, surgery, behavioral health, health education, public health nursing, public health nutrition and a wellness center.

U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Westville, a Cherokee Nation citizen, said he was proud of the work the tribe performed to secure the joint venture.

"Oklahoma has consistently ranked at the bottom of all states when it comes to national health indicators," Mullin said. "It is important that local, state and federal groups and officials take steps that will promote health and wellness across our state.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, a Chickasaw Nation citizen, said the project will benefit Indian Country and all tribes.

“I was delighted to learn about this historic partnership between the Cherokee Nation and the Indian Health Service that will greatly benefit Indian Country for years to come. As a strong supporter of joint ventures like this one and having seen the real benefits of similar facilities, including one built by my own tribe, I believe the future is indeed bright as the Cherokee Nation prepares to improve the health and well-being of tribal citizens by investing in this project,” Cole said.

A groundbreaking for the new addition will be held in the spring.

The Cherokee Nation operates the largest tribal health system in the country with more than 1.2 million patient visits per year.

Online: The Oklahoman