OCHELATA, Oklahoma - The Cherokee Nation's newest clinic said saving lives doesn't just happen in the exam room.

The clinic doubles as a hub for healthcare and a shelter from the storm when severe weather strikes.

The new Ochelata clinic is the front line of healthcare for the Cherokee Nation as the tribe tries to put medical care within 30 miles of each of its citizens.

Two years ago, tribal leaders pledged $100 million in casino profits to build four new clinics and a hospital; the facility in Ochelata was the first to break ground and open its doors.


Cherokee citizen, Ruth Ann Weaver said the opening of the new clinic is wonderful, especially for the elder Cherokee citizens.

"Extremely, extremely. That's all of our experience, that's all of our culture, because without them…they're our information," Weaver said.

The Ochelata clinic features a pharmacy, X-ray lab and even a dentist's office.

Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the tribal healthcare system saw 1.2 million patients last year; Baker said the new clinics will help free up beds at regional hospitals.

"We're all Cherokee, we're also all Oklahomans, so we're all in this together," he said.

The four new clinics will also have a new safety feature for staff, patients and people in the community.


If a tornado warning gets issued, up to 350 people can be put inside the safe room, which doubles as a training kitchen.

Tribal leaders consulted hospital administrators about safety features after an EF-5 tornado hit Joplin's Saint John's Regional Medical Center.

"We visited with them about some of the things they wished they had of done and we've incorporated storm shelters into these buildings," Baker said.

Having access to the storm shelter is something citizens are grateful to have.

"That means I can come here if we have a storm, it's a life or death situation," Weaver said.

The healthcare clinic will be open sometime within the next month; three more clinics will open in Jay, Stilwell and Sallisaw.