Friday, February 26, 2016

Cherokee, IHS Agree to New Health Center

The Cherokee Nation signed an agreement with Indian Health Service (HIS) Wednesday to secure the largest joint venture funding project ever among tribes. The agreement allows for IHS to fund the hospital at an estimated $80 million or more per year. The funding would last a minimum of 20 years, or potentially for the life of the hospital.

IHS is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that funds and provides American Indians health care.

The agreement opens the door for the Cherokee Nation to pay more than $150 million for the construction of a 450,000- square-foot health center in Tahlequah that will be the largest ever built among tribes across the nation under IHS. In the agreement, IHS will request funding for staffing and operating expenses each 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. “IHS saw Cherokee Nation as a good partner to deliver quality care and together we are making the health of Indian Country our top priority. This public-private partnership is going to create both construction and health care jobs and be a significant economic impact in our region.”

The health center will be an addition on the existing 190,000-square-foot Hastings Hospital campus in Tahlequah.

The renewal of the joint venture program that will allow the Cherokee Nation to build and operate a new facility was made possible thanks to the leadership in Congress who championed the program through the budget process and federal allocations.

"I am extremely proud of the work Chief Baker and the entire Cherokee Nation have put into making this joint venture a reality. Oklahoma has consistently ranked at the bottom of all states when it comes to national health indicators. It is important that local, state, and federal groups and officials take steps that will promote health and wellness across our state,” said Cherokee Nation citizen and U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.). “The health center in Tahlequah will be a very big step, and I applaud the Cherokee Nation and Indian Health Service’s commitment to promoting the health and wellbeing of all individuals.”

The new addition will create jobs and expand new specialty services, such as surgeons and endocrinology, which currently are not offered at Hastings, which the tribe has operated since 2008.

Other services included in the new facility are 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.

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

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

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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