TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Leaders from the Cherokee Nation and Indian Health Service joined hundreds of guests to celebrate the grand opening of the tribe’s new 469,000-square-foot outpatient health center on Thursday. The four-story facility on the campus of W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah is the largest outpatient health center in the U.S. to be operated by a tribe.
As part of the historic IHS-joint venture between a tribe and the federal government, Cherokee Nation invested $200 million in construction and equipment for the facility and IHS is providing $100 million annually for staffing and operational costs.
“When W.W. Hastings Hospital was built in 1986, it was meant to see 100,000 patient visits per year. Now more than three decades later, the Cherokee Nation oversees the largest tribal health care system in the country, and Hastings Hospital has been caring for well over four times the number of patients it was originally built to see,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “That’s why former Principal Chief Bill John Baker went to Washington, D.C. in 2014 and convinced the federal government to reopen the joint-venture application process for tribes. Because of those efforts and thanks to the tireless dedication of hundreds of men and women who have worked on this joint-venture project since that time, today we are ushering in a new era of health care for the Cherokee people.”
With the Cherokee Nation outpatient health center complete, the tribe is expected to add 850 new health care-related jobs in the coming years, including 100 physicians.
“The Cherokee Nation has long been at the forefront of modernizing tribal health care systems, and this state-of-the-art facility is a tribute to those who came before us and laid the foundation of what we see today,” Chief Hoskin said. “Together with the support of Indian Health Service, the Cherokee Nation is poised to change the lives of Cherokee families for generations to come.”
The new facility is home to more than 240 exam rooms, an ambulatory surgery center, two MRI machines, primary care, 34 dental chairs, full-service optometry and specialty health services.
“It is gratifying to see the work done by so many during my time in office result in such a magnificent facility and, best of all, better health care for the Cherokee people,” former Chief Baker said.
The new health center began opening in phases on Oct. 7.
“For more than two decades, the joint venture program has strengthened partnerships with tribes across the country and has ensured that comprehensive, culturally acceptable health services are available and accessible to American Indian and Alaska Native people,” said IHS Deputy Director Rear Adm. Chris Buchanan. “This facility joins a growing list of facilities operated under the program. It is one of the many examples of the success of this program. The Cherokee Nation has expanded on its ability to provide quality health care for future generations. I am grateful that we were able to work so closely together and continue our historic partnership with Cherokee Nation.”
Construction of the outpatient health center provided more than $43 million in revenue to Cherokee and Native-owned businesses and vendors, and created an estimated 350 construction jobs to complete the project. Childers Architects designed the building to be a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified, green-energy, cost-saving facility. Flintco-Cooper oversaw construction of the project.
“The significance of this moment and the magnitude of this day and what this health center will do for Cherokee families is not lost on me,” Deputy Chief Bryan Warner said. “The Creator has blessed the Cherokee Nation with this amazing new facility and the opportunity to better serve the health care needs of Cherokees. And not only will we be able to improve the health and well-being of Cherokees, but we’re creating new jobs and a stronger economy in the process. This is a great day for the Cherokee Nation.”
More than 600 pieces of Cherokee art are on display throughout the new outpatient health center, including work by 64 Cherokee National Treasures.