New Health Facilities On the Way for Cherokee Nation

Cherokee Nation announced it is planning to overhaul area healthcare with five upgraded facilities. That includes replacing or renovating four health clinics and building a new hospital in Tahlequah.

"In this economy, healthcare is more important to our people than anything else," said Principal Chief Bill John Baker. He was one of the speakers at the announcement at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Thursday afternoon.

The project will cost $100 million and will come from Cherokee Nation Businesses' profits. About 75 percent of the Cherokee Nation's profits come from casinos.

There will be a new health center near Ochelata and another in Jay. The Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell and the Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw will see expansions. The current W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah will be replaced with a new 150,000 square foot hospital and cost about $53.1 million. Cherokee Nation reported that the current Tahlequah hospital sees 400,000 patient visits each year. However, the facility is only built to serve about 65,000.

Channel 8 spoke with a member of Cherokee Nation who uses the healthcare facilities. She said she is tired of longer wait times and is therefore excited to hear about the changes.

"When Chief Baker took office, he promised us that our healthcare was going to improve, and it's great to see that he's keeping his promise," said Tera Black.

There will be construction over the next two to three years.