OCHELATA, OKLAHOMA – Cherokee Nation is starting construction on a new health center near Ochelata in WashingtonCounty to replace the tribe’s current health center in Bartlesville. This is one of several projects the tribe is undertaking to improve access to health care for its citizens. Work on the project will be performed by the tribe’s construction arm, Cherokee Nation Construction Resources.
“Expanding the Cherokee Nation health care system benefits our people across the board. We can offer more and better health services, we can treat our citizens in a faster and more professional manner, and, just as importantly, we are creating good-paying jobs inside the Cherokee Nation’s jurisdiction,” said Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “This increases the number of health care providers in our system, uses one of our companies for construction and creates quality construction jobs during these clinic expansions.”
The 28,000 square-foot health center will replace the existing 5,000 square-foot BartlesvilleHealthCenter, which currently operates in a small storefront building. The BartlesvilleHealthCenter opened in 2002 and employs 11 people who served more than 23,000 patient visits in 2012. Total cost of the project is $9 million.
“Principal Chief Baker has asked us to evaluate ways to improve health care access and quality care for our citizens,” said Connie Davis, executive director of Cherokee Nation Health Services. “We immediately recognized the tremendous need for additional space to give providers more exam rooms and allow us to expand our health services offerings.”
The new health center will be constructed to accommodate a range of new health services, including primary care, dental, optometry, radiology, behavioral health, public health nursing, pharmacy with mail order, laboratory, nutrition, WIC, contract health and diabetes care.
“This new health center will fill a great need for citizens living in northern and western portions of the Cherokee Nation,” said Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Dick Lay. “My constituents have asked for increased health care access, and they are finally getting the services they need and deserve. I’m proud to have helped spearhead this process and look forward to the prosperity it will bring to Cherokee citizens in this area.”
The Cooweescoowee [kü\wē\skü\wē] HealthCenter is the second of four health centers and one hospital slated for expansion or replacement under the tribe’s $100 million health care improvement plan. The plan includes new health centers in Ochelata and Jay, expansions in Stilwell and Sallisaw, and a new hospital in Tahlequah.
Cherokee Nation Businesses announced last spring it would make the investment into the tribe’s health care system directly from casino profits.
“This is exactly what our businesses were designed to do,” said Shawn Slaton, chief executive officer of CNB. “Our workforce can see their efforts lead to better health care services for their loved ones – something we should all be proud of.”
The health center’s name is derived from the historic districts of the Cherokee Nation. Historically, the far northwestern part of the Cherokee Nation was known as the Cooweescoowee District. Cooweescoowee was also the Cherokee name of former Cherokee Nation Principal Chief John Ross and also a rare bird from Cherokee homelands in the east.
Cherokee Nation Construction Resources, a division of CNB’s environmental and construction portfolio, is managing the construction of the health system expansion.
Cherokee Nation operates the largest tribal health system in the United States, which supported 1.2 million patient visits in 2012. It consists of eight health centers throughout the Cherokee Nation and W.W.HastingsHospital in Tahlequah.