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TULSA, Okla. — The Muscogee Nation signed a contract on June 14 to purchase the former Cancer Treatment Centers of America facility in Tulsa, Okla. The tribal nation’s new public hospital will increase treatment capacity in the area for high-demand situations like the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“This acquisition would increase our services for specialty care, addressing some of the long-term effects of COVID-19,” Muscogee Principal Chief David Hill said in a Facebook post. “This would also ensure that our citizens have access in times of pandemic or bed shortage crisis.”

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Sean Terry, the Health Secretary of the Muscogee Nation, told radio station KRMG that the nation’s hospitals transfer about 60 percent of their patients to Tulsa hospitals when they require a higher level of care. He said this new hospital would help meet demand in a situation like the Covid-19 pandemic, when all of the hospitals in Tulsa were full. 

“It’s an enormous step for the tribe, and it’s a great opportunity for the tribe to address any future pandemics or any future services in general during the pandemic,” chief administrative officer Rhonda Beaver told Native News Online.

Beaver said outpatient services at the hospital will open around the end of July, and inpatient services will open in early 2022. 

“Well fortunately, the former cancer treatment center left us a pretty good head start,” Beaver said. “The building’s in great shape. They even left some furniture fixtures and equipment in the hospital.” 

According to the Muscogee Nation, the hospital has 153 hotel rooms that will accommodate family members and patients. 

“We know that it’s not just the patient that is affected, that in our culture, a lot of the family go, and they like to visit, and they like to sing songs, and they like to pray, and they like to fellowship during this time through laughter or whatever the case may be,” Beaver said. “And so with these 153 hotel rooms, we’re going to be able to provide a place for families to go take showers or just so they can be near their loved ones while they’re in the hospital.”

The Muscogee Nation said its National Council first approved the move on June 10, and the lease officially began on June 15, although Beaver said the final payment has not yet taken place. According to the Muscogee Nation, the tribe’s health system will add 100 or more employees within the next year, with more jobs to come as services grow. 

Terry told KRMG that the tribe has Indian-preference hiring, and Beaver added that a job fair will be held in August. 

In his interview with KRMG, Terry said that one advantage of the hospital being located in Tulsa is that it “allows us to have closer access to physicians (in Tulsa), and for physicians to have closer access to us.” 

Beaver said that the hospital’s location in Tulsa will have a “maximum impact on the citizens that we serve.” 

“We definitely want to be available, to be able to open up access to our citizens and our patients,” Beaver added. “And normally… we send patients to Tulsa as it is, however we’d be able to do that in-house with our own employees, and we’ll be able to know what the needs of our patients are and hopefully better to provide for them in a medical setting but also provide some cultural aspects to it as well.”

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The Native News Health Desk is made possible by a generous grant from the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation as well as sponsorship support from the American Dental Association. This grant funding and sponsorship support have no effect on editorial consideration in Native News Online. 
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Andrew Kennard
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Reporting Intern
Andrew Kennard is a freelance writer for Native News Online. Kennard, a junior at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, has interned with Native News Online for two summers. He has also done freelance reporting for the Iowa Capital Dispatch and the Wisconsin Examiner, and he is a beat writer at The Times-Delphic, Drake's student newspaper.