Cherokee Nation opens first phase of outpatient health center
Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. speaks Oct. 7 at the Cherokee Nation’s partially finished outpatient health center in Tahlequah. Medical staff and tribal leaders, including CN Medical Director Roger Montgomery, left, and Chief of Staff Todd Enlow attended the event. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The Cherokee Nation’s new four-story health center opened its optometry, audiology, physical rehabilitation, behavioral health, radiology, lab and pharmacy services Oct. 7 in Tahlequah. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation medical leaders applaud during an opening event Oct. 7 outside the tribe’s new outpatient health center in Tahlequah. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation officials opened phase one of the tribe’s new four-story, 469,000-square-foot outpatient health center with a ribbon-cutting on Oct 7.
Opened were the facility’s optometry, audiology, physical rehabilitation, behavioral health, radiology, lab and pharmacy services.
The facility is the largest tribal outpatient health center in the country, and is expected to service more than 1.3 million patient visits per year, according to a CN press release.
Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. made the announcement surrounded by CN dignitaries, employees and hospital staff.
“It is wonderful today to see this facility finally opening,” he said. “Cherokee Nation and the Cherokee people have always cared for each other. That is what is at the heart of our health care system. That basic idea that as Cherokees we’re all in it together in terms of living and building our communities and raising our families, and you see that on display in our health system.”
The tribe invested about $200 million in general fund dollars into the facility’s construction and equipment. Indian Health Services is funding $100 million per year in staffing and operating costs as part of a joint venture with the tribe, said CN officials.
The facility features more than 240 exam rooms, two MRI machines, an ambulatory surgery center, 34 dental chairs, full service optometry and specialty health services, officials said.
The facility will also bring more than 800 new jobs during the next several years as the need for physicians, providers, nurses, specialists, support and clerical staff are identified, states a previous Cherokee Phoenix article.
In addition to the opening, Hoskin announced the “reorganization” of the CN health system to implement patient advocacy positions to focus on customer services and improve patient wait times.
“It’s a reorganization of our health system that will commit us to improving the things that we do,” he said. “We have the personnel in place and, of course, we’ll hire even more to fill this building. But they deserve a system that supports them. They deserve to plenty of resources and support of what they do, whether it’s patient advocacy, whether it’s making sure patients get seen on time, whether it’s making sure the patients that are new to our health system get seen by a provider as soon as possible.”
According to a CN study of patient health visits, the average CN citizen waited up to two hours from check-in-to-provider-visit completion.
“We did a study of something that I think is important to the Cherokee people,” Hoskin said. “How long does it take to get health care once you get in the door? If you look at what we do in terms of getting people in, getting them served, the good news is that our numbers look very good if you compare them to national averages. But this is the Cherokee Nation. We are not going to be content with simply being ahead of average. We’re going to strive to be number one, to set the curve every single day in everything that we do.”
The second phase of the outpatient facility is expected to open Oct. 21, officials said. This includes opening primary care, dental and resident clinic services. A grand opening is planned for Nov. 14.
The facility is at 19600 N. Ross St. with an additional entrance from W.W. Hastings Hospital.