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.


03/15/2018 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.
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
02/28/2018 04:00 PM
SALINA – When caring for a baby in its first year, there are many factors to consider when it comes to diet. Tonya Swim, Cherokee Nation clinical dietitian, said it’s a time for maturing his or her digestive system as well as introducing his or her palette to various flavors. <strong>Birth to 4 months</strong> Swim said breastfeeding is the optimal way to feed babies, but if that’s not an option bottle-feeding formula is recommended unless their physicians state otherwise. “Breast milk seems to influence the…growth that’s in the digestive track of newborns,” she said. “By having that growth, it helps to support healthy immunity, and it helps with development.” She said breast milk is also specific to the baby, which is something formula can’t replicate. “So there is no way to replicate breast milk 100 percent and create a product that is identical to breast milk. That’s not possible,” she said. “One of the reasons being is because the breast milk that’s made is unique for each individual. If mom has three children her breast milk would be (a) different makeup in regards to the fat, the protein, the carbohydrates. That breast milk would be a different makeup for those children.” <strong>4 to 6 months</strong> Swim said typically at this time babies can be introduced to solid foods. “We’re looking at iron-fortified infant cereals because the baby has used up all of its iron stored that it had from birth,” she said. “Plain, strained or puree vegetables about one to two tablespoons. Plain meaning no salt, no spices, no seasoning. The same with fruit.” She added it might take longer for some babies to get to this stage. “The time depends on if the infant is able to sit up supported and if they have good head control. So that’s the first thing that we look for,” she said. “Babies will start to become more interactive at dinnertime, so they’ll kind of start reaching for your food or they’ll start watching you put your fork in your food and take your fork to your mouth. So that would be the second thing you would look for.” When introducing solid foods, Swim said there should be variety, but only one item at a time. “If they want to introduce sweet potatoes they would want to start with just a sweet potato puree, strained, whatever they’ve got, and they would only want to do that sweet potato for seven to 10 days to make sure there’s not going to be any type of allergic reaction,” she said. “If nothing happens then that next week they can introduce a different food.” Although babies are eating small portions of solid food, Swim said breast milk or formula should be their main nutrition source for the first year. “Table food is simply a complimentary. So we would always want to feed from the breast or the bottle first and then offer them those little bites of table food second,” she said. “It starts to help develop their palette. It starts to help introduce them to different flavors and textures, but it’s not meant to be the main source of nutrition at this point.” <strong>6 to 8 months</strong> Swim said serving sizes for solid foods can increase now. “You go from the two tablespoons of each thing a day, you may bump up to three to four on your fruits and vegetables, and then your iron-fortified cereals would be about four to six tablespoons a day,” she said. Swim said by this time the babies’ parents or guardians should help them work on their “pinching” skills, which leads them to become self-feeding. “That’s something that parents can kind of play with a little bit is encouraging the baby to pick up the food and kind of feed themselves,” she said. <strong>8 to 12 months</strong> Swim said babies should be using their fingers and trying to feed themselves, while parents or guardians should be increasing the babies’ daily solid foods intakes. “They should be getting on the higher end of that six tablespoons of cereal, four table spoons of the fruits and vegetables,” she said. “The texture of those fruits and vegetables can change now because a lot of babies have started getting some teeth in. Instead of it just being strained or pureed they can do some chopped on their fruits and vegetables now and chopped on their protein foods now.” She said while introducing the bigger-sized food it should be pea-sized and babies should attended as they eat. “Don’t ever leave a baby unattended whenever they’re eating because they can choke very easily.” <strong>Tonya’s Extra Tips</strong> Tonya Swim’s extra tips for babies under 12 months old are: • avoid honey because of “botulism,” a type of food poising that can grow on improperly sterilized preserved foods, • avoid sweet beverages, salt or butter, • remove seeds and pits from fruits, • avoid processed meats like hotdogs, lunchmeat and bacon, • avoid shellfish and egg whites because of allergies, and • avoid cow milk because a baby’s digestive track isn’t mature enough to properly break down the milk. • If eating cereal, avoid sweet cereals until about eight months because their digestive tract is still maturing • If eating cereal, avoid adding sugar or syrup. Swim suggests if parents or guardians have any concerns they should contact their pediatrician.
Multimedia Editor – @cp_mdreadfulwat
02/23/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – At the Jan. 17 Rules Committee meeting, Deputy Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo reported that the tribe was to receive settlement funds from the federal government. The settlement between the Cherokee Nation and Indian Health Service recoups contract support cost totaling more than $8.2 million. The money was for unpaid support costs for 1998 in correlation to underpayments of more than $31 million, including interest and underpayments, between 2005 and 2013 and as a result of the Supreme Court case Cherokee Nation, et al v. Leavitt. According to the 2004 Supreme Court opinion, the “Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act authorizes the Government and Indian tribes to enter into contracts in which tribes promise to supply federally funded services that a Government agency normally would provide.” It also states the act “requires the government to pay…a tribe’s ‘contract support costs’ which are ‘reasonable costs’ that a federal agency would not have incurred, but which the tribe would incur in managing the program…” However, in that timeframe the opinion states the reasoning the government did not pay the contract support costs as promised is because Congress had not appropriated enough funds. “In the first case, the Tribes submitted administrative payment claims under the Contract Disputes Act of 1978, which the Department of the Interior (the appropriations manager) denied. They then brought a breach-of-contract action,” the opinion states. “The District Court found against them, and the Tenth Circuit affirmed. In the second case, the Cherokee Nation submitted claims to the Department of the Interior, which the Board of Contract Appeals ordered paid. The Federal Circuit affirmed.” Nimmo said the tribe had to cover the IHS contract costs that were denied by using CN General Fund dollars. “There were questions about whether or not half of it will go to the newly created Sovereign Wealth Fund because that law says that half of all settlements will go there,” Nimmo said. “This money…the reason it all goes to the General Fund is because it was improperly expended. And I say improperly not in the sense that we did anything wrong, but we should have, in 1998, we should have gotten this money from the federal government to support IHS contracts. Because we didn’t, we had to spend general tribal dollars to support those IHS contracts. So this money goes into basically replenish tribal dollars that were spent to support federal contracts.” Nimmo added that the Tribal Council is able to appropriate the recouped funds however it deems necessary. “The $8.2 million settlement will go into the tribe’s General Fund, where it will help provide the expanded and improved health care services our citizens deserve.” Nimmo said. “Going forward, we expect contract support costs to be funded in full as designated by treaty and federal trust responsibility.”