Investments in Health Care Create Culture of Wellness

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker stands with tribal leaders and health officials as well as state and local leaders in front of the new expansion at the Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker stands with tribal leaders and health officials as well as state and local leaders in front of the new expansion at the Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw.

Guest Commentary

Cherokees in Sequoyah County now have better access to world-class health care. A new $10 million addition to the Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw ensures our people will continue to get the kind of quality care they rightfully deserve.

This is one more block in building a more solid foundation for health services across our 14 counties. We already completed a health clinic in Ochelata and will soon dedicate state-of-the-art health facilities in Jay and Stillwell.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker

We have the largest health care system in Indian Country with more than one million patient visits per year.

Having the largest health care system is pointless if the quality of care is lacking. We should also have the best health care system in Indian Country, and we work toward that goal every day. But our system has the potential to be even more. I believe it can be the best health care system in the entire state of Oklahoma.  For the first time in the history of our tribe, we are in the position to achieve that. We took $100 million in casino profits, something that had never been done before, and put it toward new clinics, new equipment and more doctors. This is all in an effort to make all of us healthier and happier. As I have said time and time again, without good health you have nothing.

Cherokees all over the country have told Deputy Chief Crittenden and me that health care is the most important thing in their lives. They’ve told us it’s the issue they care about the most, so it’s the issue we care about the most. We are God-led men, and we took that feedback to heart. We asked the Lord for direction, and we were blessed to be able to make a once-in-a-lifetime investment for Cherokee people.

Our $100 million investment from Cherokee Nation Businesses’ profits into health care services means that we have improved health for thousands of Cherokees, leaving a positive impact for multiple generations.

In Sallisaw, the extra 30,000 square feet of space will allow our health care professionals to service an estimated 145,000 patient visits annually. By expanding our facilities, it will allow us to provide more pediatric care, more elder care, a drive-thru pharmacy and more services specifically for women. That’s on top of additional work we performed at that center. Last year we also invested $4 million into gutting and refurbishing the clinic’s main building after a mold issue was identified that had lingered for possibly years.

I walk up and down the halls of the Redbird Smith clinic and am convinced it will improve the lives of Cherokee people. That’s something the Deputy Chief and I strive to do every single day. Our talented workforce will have more space and more access to equipment and treatment methods, and they will be able to focus more on early detection and wellness practices to combat diseases like diabetes, asthma and hypertension before they become life and death scenarios.

A healthier Cherokee Nation and a healthier Cherokee people mean a healthier economy and increased quality of life. We look forward to having all of you out to our next open houses so you can see the coming changes for yourself.

God bless each and every one of you, and God bless the Cherokee Nation.

Wado

Bill John Baker is principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

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