Tahlequah Daily Press

Features

October 2, 2008

Tribe takes over Hastings

Quality care will continue for all Indians, leaders promise.

TAHLEQUAH DAILY PRESS — The staff at W.W. Hastings Hospital treated patients as usual Wednesday morning, with some of those patients perhaps not aware the Cherokee Nation had assumed operations at midnight.

At mid-morning, the transfer of Hastings from Indian Health Services to the Cherokee Nation became formal, with a presentation outside the hospital. The handover of a large “key” from Hickory Starr, acting area director of the Indian Health Service, to Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith took place near where the Cherokee Nation plans an addition to the health care complex, increasing and improving services.

“This is a very exciting day, not only for the Cherokee Nation and for Cherokee citizens, but for all Native Americans living in this area,” said Melissa Gower, group leader for Cherokee Nation Health Services.

The transfer culminated a nine-month process that began in January, with the Cherokee Nation sending a letter of intent, self-governance compact and annual funding agreement to federal officials. Then, 21 planning teams, consisting of representatives from the Cherokee Nation and Hastings, reviewed and evaluated each service at the hospital.

A final report recommended changes in the various services, and the plan was in the negotiations stage between April and June 20. Seven transition teams were formed.

“Those transition teams have worked very hard to ensure there is not a stop in services, there is not a gap in services,” Gower said.

A lawsuit opposing the move, filed in federal court Tuesday by the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, did not interfere with the transition. The UKB earlier had made a bid itself to take over Hastings, shortly after the Cherokee Nation announced its plans.

Dignitaries attending the ceremony included Smith, Muscogee Creek Nation Principal Chief A.D. Ellis, the Seminole Nation second chief, and other tribal, state and local elected officials. Marie Wadley of Muskogee, an elder who once served as secretary to the Five Civilized Tribes, was a special guest.

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