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
BY KENLEA HENSON
Former Reporter
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.

Health

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
07/13/2018 12:45 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on July 11 signed into place strict emergency rules for medical marijuana that pot advocates say are intentionally aimed at delaying the voter-approved use of medicinal cannabis. The term-limited Republican governor signed the rules just one day after her appointees on the state’s Board of Health adopted them at an emergency meeting after last-minute changes to ban the sale of smokable marijuana and require a pharmacist at every pot dispensary. Those late additions to the rules infuriated longtime medical marijuana advocates who helped get the measure on the ballot in June, when nearly 57 percent of Oklahoma voters approved it. Her quick signature also came just as medical pot advocates were rallying supporters to urge her to reject them. “People are completely angry. They voted for (State Question) 788 and now you have the health department and our governor pull these shenanigans?” said Isaac Caviness, president of Green the Vote, a marijuana advocacy group that pushed for the passage of the state question. “It’s a slap in the face to all activists. It’s a slap in the face to all Oklahomans who voted on 788.” Groups that opposed legalizing medical marijuana – including ones that represent doctors, pharmacists, hospitals and chambers of commerce – earlier this week called for new restrictions on the industry, including a ban on the sale of smokable pot and the pharmacist restriction. The board approved the two provisions against the advice of the health department’s general counsel, who said the rules likely were beyond the agency’s legal authority. Marijuana advocates say they’re considering legal action against the board. In a statement on July 11, Fallin said she thinks the rules were the best way to quickly set up a regulatory framework for medical marijuana. “I know some citizens are not pleased with these actions,” Fallin said. “But I encourage everyone to approach this effort in a constructive fashion in order to honor the will of the citizens of Oklahoma who want a balanced and responsible medical marijuana law.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/12/2018 12:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH – According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the most effective way to avoid getting sick from viruses spread by mosquitoes when at home and during travel is to prevent mosquito bites. “Mosquito bites can be more than just annoying and itchy. They can spread viruses that make you sick or, in rare cases, cause death,” the CDC website states. “Although most kinds of mosquitoes are just nuisance mosquitoes, some kinds of mosquitoes in the United States and around the world spread viruses that can cause disease.” The CDC states that mosquitoes bite during the day and night, live indoors and outdoors and search for warm places as temperatures begin to drop. Some will hibernate in enclosed spaces such as garages, sheds and under (or inside) homes to survive cold temperatures. Except for the southernmost states in North America, mosquito season starts in the summer and continues into fall. <strong>Mosquito-borne viruses in the continental U.S.</strong> West Nile virus is the most common virus spread by mosquitoes in the continental United States. People can also get sick from less common viruses spread by mosquitoes such as La Crosse encephalitis or St. Louis encephalitis. In rare cases these can cause severe disease or even be deadly. Most people infected with these viruses do not have symptoms, or have only mild symptoms like fever, headache, nausea, and vomiting. • West Nile is a virus most commonly spread to people by mosquito bites. In North America, cases of WNV occur during mosquito season, which starts in the summer and continues through fall. There are no vaccines to prevent or medications to treat WNV. Fortunately, most people infected with WNV do not have symptoms. About 1 in 5 people who are infected develop a fever and other symptoms. About 1 out of 150 infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, illness. • Most cases of Saint Louis encephalitis virus or SLEV disease have occurred in eastern and central states. Most people infected with SLEV have no apparent illness. Initial symptoms of those who become ill include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and tiredness. Severe neuroinvasive disease (often involving encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain) occurs more commonly in older adults. In rare cases, long-term disability or death can result. There is no specific treatment for SLEV infection. Care is based on symptoms. • Most cases of La Crosse encephalitis virus or LACV disease occur in the upper Midwestern and mid-Atlantic and southeastern states. Many people infected have no apparent symptoms. Among people who become ill, initial symptoms include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and tiredness. Some who become ill develop severe neuroinvasive disease (disease that affects the nervous system). Severe LACV disease often involves encephalitis and can include seizures, coma and paralysis. Severe disease occurs most often in children under the age of 16. In rare cases, long-term disability or death can result from La Crosse encephalitis. There is no specific treatment for LACV infection. Care is based on symptoms. • The Zika virus is still a problem in many parts of the world. Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands are areas with risk. Many areas in the United States have the kind of mosquitoes that can spread Zika. It can cause birth defects in babies born to women who were infected during pregnancy. The CDC recommends pregnant women and their partners and couples considering pregnancy know the risks and take prevention steps. <strong>Prevention</strong> • Use insect repellent: When used as directed, Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Use an EPA-registered insect repellent with DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, Oil of lemon eucalyptus, Para-menthane-diol or 2-undecanone. • Cover up: Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. • Keep mosquitoes outside: Use air conditioning or window and door screens. If you are not able to protect yourself from mosquitoes inside your home or hotel, sleep under a mosquito bed net.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/06/2018 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Tribal Councilor Wanda Hatfield is one of two new appointees to the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic board of directors. The board is comprised entirely of Native Americans. Hatfield, a Cherokee Nation citizen, joined the board earlier this year along with Gena Timberman, a Choctaw Nation citizen. “It is an honor to be appointed to the leadership committee of a health institution like the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, one of the largest and most successful urban Indian clinics in the country. So many Cherokee Nation citizens reside in central Oklahoma and utilize the health and wellness services provided by OKCIC,” Hatfield said. “As a member of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council, I have advocated for more and better access to quality health care for our citizens, and in my new position I will be just as committed to improved health care opportunities for all Native people in the Oklahoma City area.” Hatfield will serve a three-year term, overseeing the clinic’s finances and directing the strategic plan along with 11 other board members. “Councilor Hatfield has been a champion for American Indian health care and will expand her responsibilities in this new role. She has helped Cherokee Nation Health Services connect and collaborate with other institutions that provide quality care to Indian people, including the Children's Center Rehabilitation Hospital and especially the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic,” Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “Growing up in Adair County, she knows the health care challenges we face in rural Oklahoma, and as a retired school teacher in the Oklahoma City area, she has a unique grasp of the things our urban tribal citizens need.” Hatfield grew up in the Cherry Tree community near Stilwell in Adair County and attended Stilwell High School. She later received a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Oklahoma and was an educator at Mid-Del School District in Midwest City for 28 years. She is also a member of Cherokee Nation Businesses advisory board and the Indian Education advisory boards for Mid-Del and Moore schools. “Both of our new board members embody the spirit of the Native American community that we serve,” Robyn Sunday-Allen, OKCIC CEO and Cherokee Nation citizen, said. “Their expertise and individual talents bring energy and fresh ideals to the table. We are honored to have them join our board.” The clinic sees more than 18,000 patients from over 200 federally recognized tribes each year.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
06/28/2018 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – The head of Oklahoma’s health agency said on June 27 there’s a framework in place to get the medical marijuana industry rolling in the state soon, despite concerns from Gov. Mary Fallin that a statewide vote “opens the door” for recreational use. Oklahoma voters easily approved a state question on June 26 allowing cannabis to be used as medicine in the traditionally conservative state. The measure says applications for a medical marijuana license must be available on the agency’s website within 30 days of the measure’s passage. A regulatory office to receive applications for medical marijuana licenses, recipients and dispensary growers must be operating within 60 days. Interim Health Commissioner Tom Bates said the Oklahoma Department of Health has been developing proposed rules and regulations in case the medical marijuana program was approved by voters since he was named to the post on April 1. He said the agency is prepared “to implement a medical marijuana model as required by the state question.” “We do have a lot to take care of in a tight timeframe,” Bates said. Bates said state health officials would meet July 10 to consider emergency rules for the new Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority. Application information and requirements will be available on the agency’s website by July 26, and applications will be accepted by Aug. 25. Oklahoma’s was the first marijuana question on a state ballot in the U.S. in 2018, with elections scheduled for later this year in Michigan and Utah. Voters in neighboring Arkansas legalized the drug for medical use in 2016, but Oklahoma is among the most conservative states to approve its use. Voters came out in droves in Oklahoma to weigh in on the issue, which made it onto the ballot through a signature drive. The Oklahoma State Election Board says more votes were cast on the marijuana question than in the 2014 general election. In Oklahoma City, 33-year-old Meaghan Hunt said she cast her vote in favor of legalization because she views marijuana as another form of treatment for patients with various ailments. She said she wants them to have as many options as possible. She also believes state coffers could benefit from the cash marijuana crops would deliver. “I’d like to see more taxable revenue coming into our state and if that’s an opportunity to collect taxes, all the better — hopefully for education,” Hunt said. The term-limited Fallin said before the vote that she would call lawmakers into a special session to develop rules to regulate the industry, but she toned down her comments after the election results were clear. “I believe, as well as many Oklahomans, this new law is written so loosely that it opens the door for basically recreational marijuana,” Fallin, a Republican, said in a statement. GOP state Senate leader Greg Treat said he doesn’t think members of his party, the majority, are interested in a special session. “Whatever we do will just to be so make sure we don’t overturn the will of the people,” the president pro tempore-designate told reporters on June 27. Attitudes have shifted sharply on marijuana in recent decades in Oklahoma, especially among young people, said Bill Shapard, a pollster who has surveyed Oklahomans on the issue for more than five years. “I’ve found almost half of all Republicans support it,” Shapard said. Oklahoma’s tough-on-crime ideology also has come at a cost, with the state’s skyrocketing prison population consuming a larger share of the state’s limited funding. In 2016, voters approved a state question to make any drug possession crime a misdemeanor, despite opposition to that proposal from law enforcement and prosecutors.
BY KENLEA HENSON
Former Reporter
06/22/2018 04:00 PM
COMPETITION, Mo. – As the 2018 “Remember the Removal” cyclists made their way to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and the end of their three-week journey, one may have noticed the riders’ various ages. Although Cherokee Nation cyclists range in ages 16 to 24, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians gears its “RTR” bike ride towards improving its citizens’ health. The ages for EBCI cyclists this year ranged from 17 to 62. After finishing day 12 of riding, the older EBCI riders reflected on the nearly 1,000-mile trek to Oklahoma and why they wanted to take it. At age 62, Jan Smith said she took on the challenge to honor her ancestors. She said as an EBCI citizen she receives benefits that help her, and for that, her ancestors deserved some appreciation. “There’s people that paid for that (benefits). They’re the ones that struggled, and if they hadn’t been resilient then I wouldn’t be able to reap those benefits I have,” Smith said. “It’s just a small, small way to pay them back.” Like all cyclists who make the journey, a lot of preparation goes in months before the ride begins to ensure their physical endurance can stand against the strain they place on their bodies. Smith knew her age would work against her, so she started training early. “The first training ride I went to was like 10 miles, and I did terrible, and I thought I have to get in better shape. So I started training and eating better,” she said. “I probably worked out five to six days a week. It takes a lot of hard work.” The consecutive days of riding for hours at a time have been hard on Smith, but she said seeing some of the significant sites along the way have been worth it. EBCI cyclist Lori Owle said she rode ride to learn about the Trail of Tears history firsthand. However, the 47-year-old admitted the physical aspect has been difficult. “Before each ride I get knots in my stomach because of the unknown, but once you complete the day you get a sense of completion,” she said. On day nine, a deer hit Owle and knocked off of her bike. After three hours in the emergency room and three stitches in her finger, she was back on her bike the next day. She said being one of the “older riders” was hard, but that the younger riders were a “blessing.” “My main thought was it was us older riders that would need to watch over the young riders and make sure they don’t get hurt, but then it was me that got hurt,” she said. “They take good care of me, and I think the ride has developed patience in them. It’s really good to know that the younger generation has that kind of compassion.” For EBCI cyclist Bo Taylor participating in the ride had been a goal he worked toward for two years. The 48-year-old was selected for the 2017 ride, but a training accident two days before the ride began left him with nine broken ribs. He said he was determined to ride this year. “What I’ve always said about Cherokees is that we always get back up no matter what happens,” Taylor said. Once his ribs healed, he trained on spin bikes and eventually got back on his bike. He said his favorite moment this year was climbing the Cumberland Gap in eastern mountainous Tennessee without stopping. “For an old dude, knowing I can still do things is good. Two years ago I couldn’t do what I am doing now, so it’s been an awesome journey. I’ve found out a lot about myself.”
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Former Reporter
06/13/2018 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Establishing healthy eating patterns tailored to personal, cultural and traditional preferences that are low in sodium and saturated fat is essential to a balanced diet for young adults between the ages of 20 and 35, Cherokee Nation Clinical Dietitian Tonya Swim said. “All the food and beverage choices a person makes matters,” Swim said. “For most healthy individuals a balanced diet should have a variety of vegetables and whole fruit, low-fat or fat-free diary, half of their grains from whole grain sources, a variety of protein choices, including lean meats, seafood and vegetable sources.” Swim said that while a single healthy eating pattern will not fit everyone, all foods high in saturated fat, sodium and added sugar should be limited. She recommends individuals inspect their food’s nutrition facts label when shopping, especially for those who may buy frozen foods such as microwavable meals. “Most meals like this lack in fruits and vegetables, so adding a whole piece of fruit and a steamed bag of frozen veggies can help to meet a person’s daily fruit and vegetable needs. This is also a great way to add in extra vitamins, minerals and fiber,” she said. A good method of comparing the nutritional values of two or more food items is to examine the label’s percent of daily value, Swim said. “Search for items with the lowest amount of saturated fat and sodium and the highest amount of fiber. Five percent daily value or less of a nutrient per serving is low, and 20 percent daily value or more of a nutrient per serving is high. One nutrient that we want to strive to get more of is fiber, so this nutrient on the nutrition facts label should be as close to 20 percent daily value as possible.” That advice is especially important for those who choose to maintain a vegetarian lifestyle. “If an individual chooses to go 100 percent vegan, please be aware of nutrients that may be lacking in their diet, including iron, zinc, protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B-12, vitamin D and calcium,” Swim said. She said food sources for proper iron nutrients include almonds, oatmeal and spinach, while hummus, some whole wheat breads and cashews are good zinc sources. Fortified foods are good vitamin B-12 sources. For protein, Swim recommends peanuts, quinoa, edamame, chickpeas, lentils, black beans and kidney beans, while calcium can be worked into a vegan diet with turnip, mustard and collard greens, figs and kale. Fortified soymilk is also a good source of vitamin D in addition to calcium, while walnuts and flaxseeds are good for Omega-3 fatty acids. “Following a plant-based diet or even a full vegan plan does have health benefits, such as a lower risk of heart disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes,” Swim said. “If a vegan plan is something you would like to consider, please speak with your health care provider and registered dietitian before you begin.” Young adults should also be aware of what they might be adding to their drinks, including coffee. “It’s important to note that some coffee beverages can include calories from added sugars and saturated fat, such as creamers. So be cautious when getting your specialty coffees,” Swim said. Coffee consumption should also be “moderate,” according to dietary guidelines. “A moderate amount would be three to five 8-ounce cups a day,” Swim said. “This would approximately 400 milligrams of caffeine daily. The exception to this may be if a person has a medical condition in which their medical provider has reduced the amount of caffeine they should have, so talk to your primary provider.” Swim recommends those eligible for services with CN Health Services and seeking more information about individualized diet plans should contact their primary providers and ask to schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian.