past three years, we have worked diligently to improve the overall
quality of health care for Cherokees. Providing world-class health
care in a timely manner has been our priority from the day I took
the oath of office, and today we take another giant leap in serving
that level of care to our citizens.
We were notified this week that Cherokee Nation was selected for the
Joint Venture Construction Program with the Indian Health Service.
Under the program, tribes that build health care infrastructure can
receive federal funding for decades to assist with staffing and
operations. This means our new hospital campus at W.W. Hastings in
Tahlequah will receive an additional $20 to $30 million per year for
at least 20 years, and quite possibly many more decades beyond that.
A new state-of-the-art facility in Tahlequah is now closer than ever
before and will be among the finest health care facilities in all of
Indian Country. The additional $20 to $30 million will support our
citizens and all American Indians who seek quality care, by funding
more doctors and more equipment and providing more services than
ever. Under the partnership, IHS will pay the salaries of our
talented health care providers, increasing the size of our medical
staff faster than would have been possible otherwise. Construction
should begin very soon.
This partnership with IHS will improve the health outcomes of
Cherokees for the next two to three generations and beyond. Thanks
to this program, our grandchildren and even their grandchildren will
be healthier and happier than we could have ever imagined just a few
The Cherokee Nation is the largest tribal health care system in the
country. We service more than a million patient visits annually and
have more than 130,000 active charts. Thatís quite a strain for any
health system, and has been a strain on W.W. Hastings in particular.
Built 30 years ago to serve 65,000 outpatient visits each year,
Hastings now serves more than 400,000 outpatient visits annually. To
put that in perspective, the current size of Hastings is one-third
of the size needed to adequately serve our population. Itís not
difficult to see that it is a health system in danger of cracking if
something isnít done right away. We saw that, and we took action.
The door was shut tight on this IHS Joint Venture program just a few
years ago, and it did not appear as though it would be reopened. But
our Cherokee Nation Government Relations and Health Services groups
lobbied IHS and congressional leaders to open the process and let us
prove that we could be good partners in providing the best health
care possible to Native Americans in our area. I testified before
Congress, pleading with them to give us this opportunity. We met
with leaders on Capitol Hill for two years, and our hard work paid
The Joint Venture program was reopened for all tribes to apply, and
our staff here at Cherokee Nation worked diligently to ensure our
application was the most viable and successful plan of action. I
cannot underscore enough how important this teamís hard work was in
making this day a reality, and Iím so grateful to the congressional
leaders who signed on to give us a shot at this partnership. After
all the dust settled from two years of phone calls, visits,
congressional testimony and so much work on the ground, we learned
that our application was selected in the top three from a pool of 37
applicant tribes. We were over the moon.
I believe IHS saw that we had already committed $100 million from
tribal casino profits to construct this health facility and other
clinics, and they knew we were serious about rebuilding our aging
health care infrastructure. I believe they saw Cherokee Nation as a
good bet, putting our money where our mouth is. All the hard work
was worth every moment, to improve the lives of our fellow
Itís a great time to be Cherokee, and we have much to be proud of.
Weíre experiencing a true renaissance in the Cherokee Nation,
ushering in an era of sweeping changes in health care and making
decisions that will have a ripple effect for generations to come. It
truly doesnít get better than this.
God bless all of you, and God bless the Cherokee Nation.