Steel goes up at health center addition in Stilwell
An M. Ross Inc. construction crew on Oct. 22 installs the first steel beam for an expansion project at the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell. The $30 million project is expected to be complete in 2021. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
A construction crew on Oct. 22 works on an elevator for an addition to the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
STILWELL – A $30 million expansion project at the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell hit a milestone Oct. 22 as the first steel beams were set into place.
The phased expansion project, initially 80,000 square feet, is expected to add 110,000 square feet when ultimately completed in 2021, according to the Cherokee Nation. CN leaders broke ground on the project a week before the World Health Organization deemed the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic in March.
“We needed something bigger where people could come to one place and get all the services they need,” Nita Cochran, a 25-year employee of the health center, said during the groundbreaking ceremony. “We needed something bigger where people could come to one place and get all the services they need.”
The two-story project will support services such as primary care, pediatrics, physical therapy, mammography, dental, optometry, radiology, behavioral health, public health nursing, pharmacy, laboratory, nutrition, WIC, contract health and diabetes care.
First opened in 1994, the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center was expanded in 2015 through a $10 million effort. An original 37,000-square-foot portion of the health center was demolished to make way for the latest two-story expansion. That building, CN officials said, had experienced issues with water leaks and mold.
Along with the facility expansion, a new and larger parking area will provide an elevated drop-off for patients. Deputy Chief Bryan Warner said the expanded health center will “offer access to more services, better testing and shorter wait times for our citizens.”
In 2019, the health center saw more than 134,000 ambulatory care visits and filled nearly 200,000 prescriptions. According to the CN, it operates the largest tribal health system in the country with more than 1.3 million patient visits per year.
“In recent years, the health center has become one of the top three busiest of the Cherokee Nation’s nine health centers, experiencing a 10% increase in patient visits annually,” a CN news release states.
The health center is named after the tribe’s first female principal chief, Wilma Mankiller, who served from 1985-95. She died on April 6, 2010, at her Adair County home in Oklahoma at age 64.