October 5, 2008

Cherokees Take Charge of Hospital


The Indian medical center had been run by the U.S. government.

TAHLEQUAH -- As the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services flag outside the W.W. Hastings Indian Clinic was lowered Wednesday morning and a Cherokee Nation flag was raised, it became official -- the Cherokee Nation was operating the hospital.

W.W. Hastings has served many American Indians of all tribes over the years, and officials expressed confidence that patients would continue to receive quality care.

Dignitaries from the Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole nations, as well as Indian Health Services, tribal citizens and medical personnel attended the ceremony.

But not everyone was happy to see the Cherokees take control of the hospital. The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against several top government officials, alleging that they broke the law by not consulting with the UKB about the contract.

The Cherokee Nation began looking at Hastings in January, and the tribe's council recently approved a compact to operate it.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith said, "We are very anxious to show that this partnership will bring better health care to Indian Country here in the Cherokee Nation.

"I've been in office now for several years, and the greatest blessing I've had is to see something go from the back of a napkin to reality."

The tribe also owns 45 acres adjacent to the hospital and has plans to build an outpatient surgery center, a separate urgent care facility, a medical support building and a doctors building.

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Chief A.D. Ellis said that about 11,000 Creek citizens live near the hospital.

"We're going to work with the Cherokee Nation and any other Indian tribe that provides better health care to our citizens," he said.

Dr. Gloria Grim, the medical director for Cherokee Nation Health Services, said the changeover would enable Hastings to grow in ways it could not before.

" They will now have the tools they need, the equipment they need and then some of the niceties that you as patients need," she said.

Hickory Starr, the acting area director for the Indian Health Service, said that the hospital would be in good hands.

"I know there are questions, and one of those questions has to be 'is this a good thing?' " Starr said. "It is."

Clifton Adcock 581-8462

[email protected]

Originally published by CLIFTON ADCOCK World Staff Writer.

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