TAHLEQUAH, Okla. -- The Cherokee Nation is starting construction on its six-story $400 million hospital that will replace the nearly 40-year-old aging W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah.
Cherokee Nation leaders gathered for the official groundbreaking Thursday, April 6, to celebrate the replacement W.W. Hastings Hospital that will span 400,000 square feet and include 127 beds, Helipad on the roof and allow expanded services for Cherokee and Native citizens.
"To start building the walls that will bear our future citizens, save countless Cherokee lives and heal and comfort our sick in their most critical time of need is a defining moment in the Cherokee Nation," Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. "We can look at how far our tribe -- and our sovereignty-- has come -- from Indian Health Service operating a small rock building at NSU to a more institutionalized facility built in the mid 1980s to the Cherokee people taking ownership of its hospital needs a decade later and now building our own sky-high hospital to care for each other at the hands of more Cherokee doctors and nurses shows that in this brick and mortar we prioritize the health needs of our people."
The new hospital will have a connecting bridge to the existing Cherokee Nation Outpatient Health Center on the tribe's medical campus off Ross Avenue in Tahlequah so Cherokee citizens and staff can easily move through.
The newly rebuilt Hastings will include an ER, surgery, ICU, Imaging, pharmacy and lab, Neo-natal ICU, hospice, dietary and acute care, among other services.
The current W.W. Hastings Hospital was built in the mid-1980s, with approximately 180,00 square feet, with 56 beds and was initially designed to serve about 60,000 patient visits per year.
In the past year, W.W. Hastings served 60,000 patients alone in the Emergency Room and Urgent Care. The hospital Labor and Delivery had nearly 900 births, 4,000 surgeries and nearly 100,000 patient visits.
"This new hospital will offer access to more services, more beds, better testing, more space 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 December 2021, Hoskin and Warner signed legislation investing $440 million into health care capital improvement projects. Aside from the new $400 million replacement Hastings Hospital the investment also includes a $35 million replacement clinic in Salina and $5 million toward Northeastern State University college of optometry.
"The Cherokee Nation is blessed to be in a position to build what's needed for our people and have the right leadership in place to make it happen and dedicated staff to serve citizens in this facility," said Council of the Cherokee Nation Speaker Mike Shambaugh. "I'm proud of this administration and Council working with our health care team to make this day a reality."
The current W.W. Hastings Hospital employs more than 500 health care staff.
Dr. R. Stephen Jones, executive director of Cherokee Nation Health Services, said hospital staff work diligently to serve the Cherokee people with limited space and resources. Health administration continue to add more talented physicians, nurses, health professionals and providing them with a state-of-the-art facility will only add value to the amazing work they already do.
"These limitations have not stopped us from becoming a baby friendly hospital, a primary stoke center and creating more jobs," Jones said. "Today marks another step towards progress for our hospital family and our patients. This phase of growth will further our mission to ensure that the story of the Cherokee Nation continues and to improve our health and quality of life."
Childers Architects and Foreman Manhattan Construction team are overseeing the project which is expected to be a two-year completion.