http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgAn aerial view shows construction progress on the Cherokee Nation’s Outpatient Health Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The facility will be four stories and approximately 470,000 square feet. It’s located on 45 acres east of W.W. Hastings and is expected to open in September 2019. COURTESY
An aerial view shows construction progress on the Cherokee Nation’s Outpatient Health Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The facility will be four stories and approximately 470,000 square feet. It’s located on 45 acres east of W.W. Hastings and is expected to open in September 2019. COURTESY

Health facility construction, employment planning underway

An aerial view shows construction of the Cherokee Nation’s 470,000-square-foot outpatient health center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The facility will serve as the primary health care access point for American Indians and Alaskan Natives residing in the Tahlequah service area. COURTESY
An aerial view shows construction of the Cherokee Nation’s 470,000-square-foot outpatient health center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The facility will serve as the primary health care access point for American Indians and Alaskan Natives residing in the Tahlequah service area. COURTESY
01/02/2018 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With construction following a February groundbreaking on the Cherokee Nation’s new health facility near W.W. Hastings Hospital, tribal officials are now planning for employment for when it’s completed in September 2019.

The outpatient and primary care facility, which Indian Health Services awarded to the CN, is one of the largest joint venture agreements between a tribe and IHS, according to a CN press release.

Once completed, the facility will be the largest health center of any tribe in the country at approximately 470,000 square feet and four stories high. It will serve as the primary health care access point for American Indians and Alaskan Natives residing in the Tahlequah service area.

The facility will feature five surgical suites and two endoscopy suites inside its ambulatory surgical center. It will house a specialty clinic and feature 33 dental chairs, six eye exam rooms and three audiology-testing booths. Space will also be expanded for rehabilitation services, behavioral health and a wellness center.

During the past several months, construction crews have transformed 45 acres into the health center’s beginning stages. So far concrete foundations have been poured and steel structures are going up. As a result, 350 construction jobs have been created.

“I don’t think we can overstate the amount of payroll dollars this thing has. We are working with our TERO (Tribal Employment Rights Office) contractors and TERO sub-contractors to keep as much of that payroll in our community as we possibly can. You can see the number of trucks going in and out of here and the impact it has,” Brain Hail, W.W. Hastings Hospital CEO, said.

Hospital officials meet with architects and contractors monthly for construction updates, and Hail said the expansion is being designed to “accommodate” staff and patients.

“The staff has done a really good job of responding to questions quickly during the design phase, so we can get the design phase completed. We also have done mockups so the facility will be constructed to accommodate the staff that is using it,” he said. “We also try to be very focused on the patients’ experience to make sure they don’t have to walk any further then absolutely necessary, especially our elders.”

With regards to a proactive patient experience, he said parking would significantly increase at the facility. Hospital officials are also in the planning phase for hiring staff. With a larger facility and additional services, the facility will require an additional 800 health care professionals.

Hail said the hospital is working with the tribe’s Education and Career Services departments to prepare a work force for the facility’s opening.

“We are trying to be proactive with Education and Career Services to make sure they’re aware of the needs that we are going to have when we open the new facility so they can start adjusting their scholarships, start adjusting the training they provide and start getting ready to prepare our workforce for the facility. We also have our offices of professional recruitment and retention aware of what we are going to need, so they can be recruiting people now and getting them ready to join us when we open,” he said.

While the center’s opening less than two years away, positions in certain areas will be needed as early as six months to a year prior to the opening. Those areas include information technology, environmental services, facilities management and security. To ensure those positions are secured before the opening, Hail said officials are requesting early funding.

With Hastings Hospital being more than 35 years old and approximately 180,000 square foot, it was designed to serve 60,000 patient visits annually. However, in 2016, the hospital saw nearly 400,000 patient visits, and in 2017 it handled more than 500,000 patient visits.

As patient visits increase, Hail said officials are planning for the future with the new facility.

“The current facility is in need of expansion and modernization to serve current and future demands,” he said. “We are basically working for a 20-to-25-year timeline to try to anticipate what we need for the next 20 to 25 years in health care and the community.”

Officials are also planning for the future through recruitment and a partnership with the Oklahoma State University Center for Health and Sciences to expand its medical school to Tahlequah.

Inpatient operations, emergency services, labor and delivery decks, diagnostic imaging and pharmacy will remain at Hastings Hospital. And the medical school will occupy Hastings’ remaining space after the new facility is finished.

“We are doing everything that we can to try and expand the number of professionals that will be available to us. What everyone sees is where people train is where they tend to stay, so we want to train as many people in our area so they stay in the area,” he said.


03/23/2018 03:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, a nonprofit clinic providing health and wellness services to American Indians in central Oklahoma, on March 20 recognized the impact HIV/AIDS has on Native Americans through the observance of National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Although American Indians and Alaska Natives’ HIV infection is proportional to the rest of the United States population size, certain measures within the overall statistics of new HIV infections and diagnoses are disproportionate compared to other races or ethnicities. Of the 39,513 people with a HIV diagnoses in the United States in 2015, more than 200 were American Indians and Alaska Natives. Of those, 73 percent were men and 26 percent were women. “The topic of HIV/AIDS remains a serious health threat to the Native American community,” OKCIC CEO Robyn Sunday-Allen said. “It is crucial that prevention programs be tailored to the specific needs of this population.” American Indians and Alaska Natives are statistically more likely to face challenges associated with risk for HIV infection, which includes high rates of sexually transmitted disease; substance abuse leading to engaging in risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex; and issues related to poverty, such as lower education levels and limited access to health care. The OKCIC encourages the Native community to get educated, get tested and get involved in HIV prevention, care and treatment. It recommends that all adults and young adults get tested for HIV at least once as a routine part of medical care. Those who are at a higher risk should get tested every year. There are ways to prevent HIV infection, including abstinence (not having sex), limiting the number of sexual partners, never injecting drugs and sharing needles and always use condoms properly when having sex. People may be able to take medication (Truvada) for PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). The only way to know if you have HIV is to be tested. Knowing your HIV status helps you make choices that prevent you from getting HIV or from transmitting HIV. Visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>, call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a> for more information. THE OKCIC was established in 1974 to provide health care and wellness services to American Indians in central Oklahoma. The clinic staff cares for more than 18,000 patients from more than 200 federally recognized tribes every year. American Indians receive services such as medical, dental, pediatrics, prenatal, pharmacy, optometry, physical fitness, nutrition, family programs and behavioral health services. For more information, call 405-948-4900 or visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
03/22/2018 12:00 PM
SALINA – Every year when spring arrives, so do the sprouts of bright green stems in the woods and hollows known to Cherokees as wild onions. Wild onions are often cooked with grease or lard and are boiled or pan-fried. Cherokee Nation clinical dietitian Tonya Swim said there are healthier alternatives for preparing the plant. “A lot of people use lard or bacon grease and that’s a flavor enhancer. So an option that you can do instead using some sort of bacon grease or high-fat product would be to add some sort of stock, like vegetable stock, that would be able to add flavor without the extra fat,” she said. Swim said wild onions could also be cooked using vegetable oil when pan-fried. “If you’re going to pan fry with eggs, then using a vegetable oil instead of the bacon grease or lard would be a healthier choice,” she said. She added that they could be used in other recipes to replace related plants such as chives or scallions. “You can basically replace anything that would have what we call little green onions or chives. Anything that would have those as an ingredient you can…use the wild onions to replace that in pretty much any recipe.” She said one piece of wild onion contains approximately 20 calories, 4.65 gram of carbohydrates, and 0.96 grams of protein. It also contains 0.06 grams of fat but is rich in vitamins such as vitamins K and C. “I know that this is a very traditional thing for people. We as dietitians, we try to offer healthier alternatives,” Swim said. “The recipes that they use are individual per family. They have their own special twist. They have their own special take and they hold those near and dear to their heart.” Swim provided two recipes, one for traditional wild onions and the other containing wild onions as an alternative ingredient. Recipes are courtesy of the University of Kansas American Indian Health and Diet Project and can be found at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. <strong>Wild Onions</strong> <strong>Ingredients:</strong> 1 cup of chopped wild onions (peel tough outer portion of bulb and cut away roots) 1 cup of vegetable stock <strong>Preparation:</strong> In heated frying pan or skillet, cook the onions in the stock until the water is almost gone. Then add desired seasonings (e.g. pepper and garlic). Add 6 stirred scrambled eggs (turkey, duck, goose or chicken) and cook until done, or just add onions to other dishes. <strong>Super Dip</strong> <strong>Ingredients:</strong> 1 cup of tomato salsa (finely blended) ½ cup of diced bell pepper 1 cup of hominy ½ cup of wild onions (or scallions from the store) 1 chopped jalapeno (or if preferred mild, use ¼ cup of pickled jalapenos) 1 cup of chopped tomatoes 1 cup of black-eyed peas salt to taste pepper to taste <strong>Preparation:</strong> Mix in bowl, cover and let sit for at least 12 hours to marinate. Serve with homemade tortillas.
03/15/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation W.W. Hastings Hospital CEO Brian Hail was recently named a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, an honor that has been awarded to less than 10,000 health care executives around the world. The American College of Healthcare Executives has more than 40,000 health care professionals whose mission is to achieve excellence in the health field. Members who achieve a high level of excellence and complete a set list of requirements are named a fellow of the college. “The health care management field plays a vital role in providing high-quality care to the people in our communities, which makes having a standard of excellence promoted by a professional organization critically important,” ACHE President and CEO Deborah J. Bowen, said. “By becoming an ACHE Fellow and earning the distinction of board certification from ACHE, health care leaders demonstrate a commitment to excellence in serving their patients and the community.” The board certification is a more than two-year process of meeting academic criteria, having health care experience, maintaining a high-level of character and professionalism and passing a comprehensive exam. “I believe that the FACHE credential represents the commitment to excellence in healthcare for our stakeholders,” Hail said. “Meeting the requirements and maintaining the credential helps to assure a commitment to ongoing development and learning in the healthcare landscape that is constantly changing.” In addition to serving as chief executive officer of W.W. Hastings Hospital for five years, Hail worked in the aeromedical field as a flight nurse for 13 years. He completed his master’s degree in business administration at Northeastern State University. For more information about ACHE, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
03/06/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH - On Feb. 28, the Cherokee Nation became the first tribe to proclaim a day “Rare Disease Awareness Day.” Principal Chief Bill John Baker signed the proclamation with Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden; Jade Day, CN citizen and “Twist of Fate Funding” and patient engagement director; Health Services Medical Director Dr. James Stallcup; and Dr. James Baker, medical director at the Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee, in attendance. Also in attendance was Day’s 10-year old-son, Gaven, who has FG1 Syndrome, a rare disease that has no current research, treatment or cure. It is a rare genetic syndrome caused by one or more recessive genes located on the X chromosome causing physical anomalies and developmental delays. There are more than 7,000 known rare diseases worldwide, and 95 percent of these diseases do not have a current treatment or cure. One in 10 Americans suffer from rare diseases, and more than 50 percent are children. More than 50 percent of those children will die before reaching their fifth birthday. Day urged Baker and the witnesses to encourage leaders worldwide in raising awareness of rare diseases and to expand research and improve access to treatments. For more information, call 918-869-3474 or email <a href="mailto:"></a>.
03/04/2018 04:00 PM
CLAREMORE – The Claremore Indian Hospital will sponsor a Veterans Affairs Enrollment Fair on March 8 in the hospital’s Conference Room 1. Hospital officials said the fair is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to assist their Native American veteran patients in applying for eligibility for health care services through the VA. “We will have Claremore Indian Hospital benefit coordinators and representatives from the VA to assist with the application processes,” Sheila Dishno, Claremore Indian Hospital patient benefit coordinator, said. “We will also have Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs here to help with those that need help filing a service claim. Please make plans to attend and bring your financial information (income and resource information) and DD-214 (military discharge) papers.” If already enrolled, call 918-342-6240, 918-342-6511 or 918-342-6559 so a hospital official can update your file.
03/03/2018 04:00 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Oklahoma will be at the Claremore Indian Hospital on March 7 to assist patients with signing up for free to low-cost health insurance. The insurance company will be in Conference Room 2 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to help people sign up for health insurance. Sheila Dishno, patient benefit coordinator at the hospital, said people who attend the fair should bring their Social Security cards, pay stubs, W-2 forms or wage and tax statements, policy numbers for any current health insurance and information about any health insurance they or their families could get from an employer. The hospital is located at 101 S. Moore Ave. For more information, call 918-342-6240, 918-342-6559 or 918-342-6511.