Cherokee Nation Announces Plans To Invest $100 Million In Health System

Thursday, March 28th 2013, 7:54 am
By: Craig Day

The Cherokee Nation is making its largest investment in healthcare in tribal history.

The tribe will invest $100 million to expand some existing health facilities and build several new ones, impacting tribal citizens in communities all across Eastern Oklahoma.

The Cherokee Nation says, over the next two to three years, a $100 million investment into building new and renovating existing healthcare facilities will mean better and more accessible healthcare for tribal citizens.

"With these facilities, the Cherokee nation will have a world class health system, and no Cherokee will get second class health care," said Chief Bill John Baker.

The largest project will be at the Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, which serves 400,000 patients each year. A new $53 million hospital will be built next to the existing facility.

10/19/2012 Related Story: Cherokee Nation Plans $50 Million Expansion To Tahlequah Hospital

"In this economy, healthcare is more important to our people than anything else," Baker said.

The plan also includes a new $9 million facility near Ochelata, which would replace the current Cherokee health center in Bartlesville. A new 42,000-square-foot, $13.5 million facility will be built in Jay. Stilwell's Health Center will get a $9 million expansion. The tribal health facility in Sallisaw will get an $11 million renovation and expansion.

The funds to make it happen are available due to the success of Cherokee Nation Businesses, which generated $715 million last year alone, the tribe says.

"Last year, we were able to pay the highest dividend to the nation on record, so we're very excited to use our casino profits, and profits from our other businesses to build these healthcare facilities," said CEO of Cherokee Nation Businesses, Shawn Slaton

"This is exactly what our businesses are designed to do," Baker said.

The Cherokee health system has 1.2 million patient visits each year. Chief Baker says they'll see shorter lines and better overall care.

"It's time we upgrade. It's time that we treat our people with the best healthcare possible," Baker said.

Once the new hospital is finished, the current Hastings hospital in Tahlequah will become an outpatient center.

Future plans also include a new $5 million drug and alcohol dependency treatment center and renovation of the Three Rivers Health Center, both in Muskogee.