Topping out ceremony held for Cherokee Nation health expansion

BY KENLEA HENSON
Former Reporter
03/12/2018 02:00 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Miss Cherokee Madison Whitekiller sign the final beam for the W.W. Hastings Hospital expansion on March 9 in Tahlequah as part of a topping out ceremony. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Construction workers lift the final beam into place on March 9 during a topping out ceremony for the W.W. Hastings Hospital expansion in Tahlequah. The facility is expected to be finished next year. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Construction workers place the final beam on the four-story steel frame of the W.W. Hastings Hospital expansion on March 9 in Tahlequah. The facility is slated for completion in 2019 and will relocate more than 30 departments from the current hospital. KENLEA HENSON/ CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
A rendering of the inside of the W.W. Hastings Hospital expansion in Tahlequah. The facility will encompass 469,000 square feet when done. COURTESY
Main Cherokee Phoenix
A rendering of the check-in counter in the new W.W. Hastings Hospital expansion in Tahlequah. The facility will feature 240 exam rooms, 35 dental chairs, 16 eye-exam rooms, five surgical suites, two endoscopy suites, three audiology testing booths and diagnostic imaging. COURTESY
Main Cherokee Phoenix
A rendering of the exterior of the W.W. Hastings Hospital expansion in Tahlequah. Some of the departments in the new facility will be pharmacy, primary care, dental, laboratory and rehabilitation and wellness. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH –The Cherokee Nation’s W.W. Hastings Hospital expansion got a step closer to completion on March 9 as the final steel beam was connected to the four-story frame during a topping out ceremony.

More than 200 tribal, federal and state officials, as well as hospital employees, construction workers and residents gathered to sign the beam and witness the event.

“Patient care is a top priority for the Cherokee Nation, and this state-of-the-art medical facility will allow us to offer an even higher level of care,” Dr. Charles Grim, Health Services acting executive director, said. “The project could not have taken place without the partnership of Indian Health Service, our tribal government and council, Cherokee Nation Businesses, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, contractors and many dedicated health employees.”

The CN is funding the construction, while Indian Health Services will pay for staffing and operations, per an agreement between the tribe and IHS.

Once the 469,000-square-foot facility is complete it will be the largest tribal health facility in the country, a CN press release states.

The release also states the facility is slated for completion in 2019 and will relocate more than 30 departments from the hospital to the expansion, including pharmacy, primary care, dental, laboratory and rehabilitation and wellness. It also states the facility will have 240 exam rooms, 35 dental chairs, 16 eye exam rooms, five surgical suites, two endoscopy suites, three audiology testing booths and diagnostic imaging, which will include MRIs, CT scans and ultrasounds. It will also include a specialty clinic with cardiologists and more orthopedics, the release states.

Tribal Councilor Keith Austin said the Cherokee people have never had so many CN health services centralized to receive care.

“We always had to have contract health take care of our people. This is unprecedented for us to have this level of care that we actually are taking care of our people our self within our own facility,” he said. “It’s just phenomenal what we are going to be able to do behind these walls, to be able to take care of our people. Nobody would have ever thought we could have done this, and this last beam is proof that it’s actually real. It’s going to happen, and now we can actually start finishing up this project.”

The expansion is located next to the existing hospital and will be certified as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design project, maximizing cost saving and energy efficiency, the release states. Its interior will include traditional design elements such as abstract floor patterns that represent the reed used in traditional Cherokee basketry, as well as an east-facing entrance. Its exterior will feature natural lighting, wood and stone.

Michelle Speed, a dentist at Hastings, said she’s excited to be in the expansion once it’s finished.

“It is going to provide much-needed space and allow us to see so many more patients, and it is going to provide so many more services to our patients as well. This is such a historic event, and I am really glad to be apart of this experience,” Speed said.

As a result of the expansion, 850 health care jobs are expected to be created.

“From breaking ground on this project a year ago to celebrating its steel frame now in place, we continue to see the advancement of our health care system for Cherokee Nation citizens,” Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “This outpatient health facility will fulfill citizens’ health needs and create jobs in the process, something we can all be proud of.”

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