TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. signed legislation today that will invest a total of $440 million into health care capital improvement projects, including $400 million for construction of a new hospital in Tahlequah and $35 million for a new outpatient health center in Salina.
The Council of the Cherokee Nation approved the legislation during its December Council meeting.
“After a decade of dramatic expansion of our Cherokee Nation health system, we must keep investing to ensure Cherokee citizens have access to the best in health care,” Chief Hoskin said. “Through this landmark legislation, the Cherokee Nation will construct a state-of-the-art hospital to replace the nearly 40-year-old W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah using the latest in hospital design. We will then repurpose our current hospital facility to be the heart of our expanded behavioral health program. On top of all of this, we will also use this legislation to replace the A-Mo Health Center in Salina with a new, state-of-the-art facility. Together, these projects will positively impact the lives of Cherokee families for many, many generations as we erase the line between mental health and physical health, and instead recognize that our goal must be to provide wellness for every Cherokee.”
Built in the mid-1980s, W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah has approximately 180,00 square feet and was initially designed to service about 60,000 patient visits per year. Recently, the hospital facility has served over 500,000 patient visits annually, including more than 400,000 ambulatory visits per year and up to 70,000 emergency department and urgent care visits.
The new hospital is still in the design phase but is expected to provide at least twice the space as the existing hospital facility. The new hospital will have an increased bed capacity for critical care patients and will provide inpatient dialysis. It will also offer expanded space for the hospital’s increasing number of births in the labor and delivery department over the years. In fiscal year 2020, nearly 900 babies were born at W.W. Hastings Hospital.
“The new W.W. Hastings facility and the new health facility in Salina will offer access to more services, better testing, and shorter wait times for our citizens,” said Cherokee Nation Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “It is a real blessing to be able to invest these critical dollars to improve our health care system by growing it to meet the needs of our citizens. These investments will also positively benefit our tribe by creating new health care jobs, as well as construction jobs and other opportunities that benefit Cherokee families and communities.”
In 2019, the Cherokee Nation opened the Cherokee Nation Outpatient Health Center in Tahlequah, the largest tribally operated outpatient health center in the country. The 469,000-square-foot facility is located near the existing W.W. Hastings Hospital and will connect to the new hospital being built by the tribe.
“I think this will allow us to really fulfill the vision and expectations of Cherokee Nation Health Services that hadn’t been met in previous years due to aging facilities and outdated equipment,” said Speaker of the Council Mike Shambaugh. “Now this entire Tahlequah campus, as well as the health center in Salina, will be a place where people will heal, families will rejoice, and students will learn. It’s definitely a turning point for the citizens of the Cherokee Nation.”
The legislation also authorizes Chief Hoskin to negotiate a memorandum of agreement with Northeastern State University for a donation to its college of optometry of up to $5 million. The donation will support NSU’s construction of a new $33 million facility for the college at its Tahlequah campus. NSU and Cherokee Nation have a long-standing partnership providing optometry services to patients in the tribe’s health system.
Groundbreakings to kick off construction of the Tahlequah and Salina projects will be announced at a future date.