Cherokee Nation's Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw opened its $4.4 million newly remodeled main building Wednesday. Shown on the left at the ribbon cutting are Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker, center, who cuts the ribbon to the health center main building and stands with Cherokee Nation administration and health officials, Tribal Councilors Janelle Fullbright and David Thornton, State Rep. John Bennett, State Sen. Mark Allen, Redbird Smith staff and members of the Sallisaw Chamber of Commerce.
Redbird Smith Health Center Administrator Jerry Caughman, far left, and Dr. Stephen Jones, Cherokee Nation's director of dental services, far right, stand with dental staff and showcase the new dental wing inside the main building of Redbird Smith Health Center. (right picture)
Baker said, "Cherokee citizens deserve world-class care, so we made a strategic investment to increase Redbird Smith Health center's size and upgrade its medical technology. This will ensure we offer treatment as effectively and efficiently as possible when patients come for health care services. This is the most important long-term investment we can make as a tribal government. More importantly, this expansion allows our health center to accommodate more people day in and day out." The main building houses the health center's administration, check-in registration, healthy living, behavioral health, public health nursing and dental services. It offers employees a new fitness room, has six rooms that double as storm shelters for patient safety and a large community room that can be rented by the public for $75. The health center now has 12 dental chairs, up from seven, to serve more patients. Connie Davis, executive director of Health Services, said, "The Redbird Smith renovation and expansion will not only serve more patients, but also offer programs such as mammography and physical therapy that patients normally would have to be referred to Tahlequah or other health centers to get. I'm very proud of this expansion, and it's just the first of many more to come for our overall health centers." The building also features a mural of Sequoyah, who invented the Cherokee writing system in 1821. His cabin is a historical site near Sallisaw. In the dental unit, names of Cherokees who walked the Trail of Tears are scrawled across the wall. The area lies along some of the routes that were the Trail of Tears in the 1830's.
The main building was closed and patient services moved to another part of the health center after mold was detected in the fall of 2012. The entire building was gutted and rebuilt using Indian Health Services funds. Behind the main building, a new $11 million addition is currently under construction. Once complete, the Redbird Smith Health Center will go from 33,000 square feet to more than 60,000 total square feet. The total cost of construction and expansion is more than $25 million. The annex will feature a new drive-thru pharmacy, more lab space, and physical therapy and mammography services for the first time. It will also have more than 25 exam rooms.
Redbird Smith Health Center first opened in 1992 on South J.T. Stites Street. In 2013 it had more than 100,000 patient visits per year and is expected to dramatically increase after all renovations are complete. "The Redbird Smith Health Center expansion is great for the entire community of Sallisaw," said Tribal Council Deputy Speaker Janelle Fullbright of Sallisaw. "Any time there is an expansion it creates more jobs, is aesthetically more appealing to the neighborhood, and offers new opportunities all the way around."
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