Tahlequah Daily Press

February 13, 2014

Baker: Tribe couldn’t shut down for snow without loss of service

From Staff reports

TAHLEQUAH — Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker responded this week to questions about the administration’s decision to keep the complex open during recent inclement weather, saying that services are critical for citizens.

Baker acknowledged that in light of harsh winter conditions, the administration had to make some “tough decisions” about whether to keep its offices open.

“I’m proud to say that our 24-hour and emergency operations, such as EMS, Hastings Hospital and the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service, have remained open and in service every day this winter, regardless of the conditions,” he said. “On the days we’ve experienced inclement weather, we have allowed employees extra time to travel to work, so that our health centers can remain open and continue to serve the sick and those in need. The same goes for other offices, such as housing, human services, career services, registration and the tag office.”

Baker cited the tendency during harsh weather for cold and flu cases to increase. More elders experience dangerous slips and falls, and children become sick, he said, so it’s imperative that health centers remain open to accommodate the influx of patients.

“Thankfully, our dedicated health staff has remained on duty, even working extra hours, to ensure our people continue to get the care they need,” Baker said.

Baker added that as the price of natural gas and propane increase, so does the need for emergency assistance with heating bills.

“When elders are shivering in their homes, and blankets and plastic around the windows can no longer keep out the cold, the thing they will not see when they come to the Cherokee Nation is a sign on the door that says ‘closed,’” he said. “Our housing and human services programs remain open during poor conditions, so they may help those individuals by winterizing homes and providing emergency assistance with heating bills.”

He tipped his hat to employees of the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service for their dedication during difficult conditions. He said officers have pulled cars out of ditches and from snowy embankments, and rescued trapped elders from their homes so they could go to dialysis and other critical medical treatments.  

“I am proud of the fact that the Cherokee Nation has not closed offices during this very trying winter, and even prouder of our employees who show up to work, regardless of how challenging the elements are,” Baker said. “Our employees are the lifeline to our people. They know their mission is to serve and be accountable, and they do a fantastic job fulfilling that mission.”