After two years of construction, the country’s largest Tribal outpatient health facility is set to open in phases this October. Planning for a grand opening ceremony is underway for November. The first departments — optometry, audiology, physical rehabilitation, behavioral health, radiology, lab and pharmacy services — will debut on Monday, October 7.
Next, the Cherokee Nation’s four-story, 469,000-square-foot outpatient health center on the Hastings campus in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, will begin offering primary care, dental and resident clinic in the new center on October 21.
“The Cherokee Nation is excited to open this beautiful new facility that allows us to serve more of our citizens, and offer more services than they ever had before,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. says in a media release. “This facility is a real game changer that will improve our overall health system and is a huge investment in our local economy. It is a blessing for me to see former Chief Bill John Baker’s vision come to fruition because of what it means for our citizens.”
The Cherokee Nation invested approximately $200 million of its general fund dollars into the facility construction and purchase of equipment. Indian Health Service will fund $100 million per year in staffing and operating costs in a historic joint-venture agreement with the Tribe.
Cherokee Nation operates the largest tribal health system in the country with more than 1.3 million patient visits per year.
The new facility features more than 240 exam rooms, two MRI machines, an ambulatory surgery center, 34 dental chairs, full service optometry and specialty health services.
“This facility is bringing 850 jobs into Cherokee Nation over the next few years, including 100 physicians. Anytime we can improve infrastructure and boost the economy with new jobs is a win-win for our tribe and Indian Country,” says Cherokee Nation At-large Councilor and chair of the Council’s Health Committee Mary Baker-Shaw.
W.W. Hastings Hospital will remain the inpatient facility on the Hastings campus, which will also house the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine at Cherokee Nation forecasted to open in 2020.
“The opening of the new Cherokee Nation outpatient health center will allow us to expand services and improve access for our patients,” Dr. Stephen Jones, Interim Executive Director of Cherokee Nation Health Services, says in the release. “We will now be able to house a multitude of services under one roof which will not only provide convenience for patients but it will remove some of the challenges to the delivery in health care that our patients have experienced for decades.”
Inside the health facility is also more than 600 pieces of Cherokee art, all made by Cherokee Nation citizens.
“If you come in, we’ve created a cottage industry of Cherokee artists that before wouldn’t have had a venue to sell and display their art,” says Gina Olaya, who oversees culture, art and design for Cherokee Nation Businesses. “Now that this health center is built, we have provided them a location. It’s literally giving back to the people not in just a dollar amount but in goodwill and community spirit.”