More Health Care, Better Health Care for Cherokees

W.W. Hastings Hospital

W.W. Hastings Hospital

Guest Commentary

We have made tremendous strides to grow our health system in the past three years. We made a record investment of $100 million from our gaming profits into health center construction and expansion. We recently announced a new joint venture project with Indian Health Service (IHS) for a new facility at the W.W. Hastings campus in Tahlequah.

Principal Chief Bill John Baker

Principal Chief Bill John Baker

As I have said time and time again, no issue is more important for the Cherokee Nation and our future than access to quality health care. While we have been aggressive in expanding clinics, staff and services, Cherokee Nation Health Services has been equally committed to increasing the quality of care our health system provides.

As the largest tribally owned and operated health system in the nation, Cherokee Nation’s system is comparable to just about any other major health system in the United States in terms of size, patient load and services offered. We typically have more than one million patient visits annually.

While some tribes are totally dependent on IHS for health care, the Cherokee Nation has chosen to partner with IHS instead. That alone sets a standard that other tribes nationwide can follow and we do mentor other tribal governments on best practices to grow their services and capabilities.

In 2014, we made history by achieving two national accreditation achievements. The Cherokee Nation earned the Accreditation Commission for Health Care and the Commission on Educational Programs for the Emergency Medical Professions accreditation. We made history not just as the first tribe to earn these, but the first health organization in Oklahoma.

Cherokee Nation was also the first in Oklahoma to earn Accreditation of Ambulance Services and DNV Healthcare Inc. accreditation. These are very meaningful and reflect a quality that is second to none.

We exercise our inherent tribal sovereignty by choosing to meet the rigid health care standards needed to earn accreditation and I am proud that we do.

In the past year, we have earned dozens of honors and certifications for our health centers, our world-class services and our talented and dedicated medical staff.  These awards and recognitions simply quantify what we are doing and our mission for Cherokee citizens. We have a made a true and lasting commitment to our people that will make positive impacts for generations.

Cherokee citizens deserve this level of exceptional care. It’s something important to me, Deputy Chief Crittenden and the Tribal Council. Cherokee Nation Health Services, led by Connie Davis and Dr. Charles Grim, has been proactive in keeping the tribe among the top rated health providers not just in Indian Country, but among all health systems.

Our high satisfaction marks are the reason Cherokee citizens keep choosing us as their health provider of choice.  We hope it stays that way, as we constantly strive for improvement.

Wado.

Bill John Baker is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation based in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

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