Cherokee Nation Plans $50 Million Expansion To Tahlequah Hospital

Friday, October 19th 2012, 11:09 pm

Millions of dollars will soon be pumped into bringing better health care to those in Green Country.

The Cherokee Nation tribal council has signed off on an $80 million plan to upgrade its health centers. The majority of that will go toward rebuilding the tribe's hospital.

The hospital was built in the ‘80s, to accommodate 60,000 patient visits each year.

But in 2011 alone, the hospital saw more than six times that number, and it's simply outgrown its current home.

10/29/2010 Related Story: Tahlequah Hospital About To Undergo Major Expansion

As the need for health care has grown, so has the wait at W.W. Hastings Hospital.

"Some days you come in and you're here for maybe an hour, and other days you could sit here for four or five hours before you're seen," said patient Ina Smith.

Hastings offers free health care to all tribal members. It's a service that Ina Smith depends on.

"I wouldn't be able to make it, because I live on Social Security and without the hospital here to help me out, I just couldn't do it. So, it's vital," Smith said.

While the Cherokee Nation takes pride in its health care system now, the Executive Director of Health, Connie Davis said there's always room for improvement.

"We transfer over 100 patients a month from our emergency facility department to Tulsa and surrounding areas, and it's a huge inconvenience to the patient population and their families," Davis said.

The Cherokee Nation recognizes the hospital's need for space and has allotted $50 million to go toward building a brand new facility.

Though, in the very early stages of planning, Smith said the new hospital would go from 62 beds to 100, and its surgical space would also expand significantly.

"We have quite a surgical backlog and we will probably double the size of our surgery suites," Davis said.

The tribe has also laid out plans to build new health centers in Bartlesville, Jay and Stillwell with $7 million going to each.

And as the tribe works toward improving the quality of health care, it will also improve the economy.

Smith said a new, larger hospital will bring more job opportunities to northeastern Oklahoma.

"We're looking to recruit new providers, mid-levels, dentists, support staff—we'll need it all," Davis said.

Once the hospital is built, the current facility will serve as an outpatient center.

While the tribe has plans, what it doesn't have is cash.

It's in the process of searching for funding sources now.