Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

January 16, 2008

Cherokees discuss HIMC takeover; UKB announces bid

As the CN Health Committee eyed a feasibility study on assumiing control of the local hospital, they said the Keetoowahs have no standing to launch a similar campaign.

TAHLEQUAH DAILY PRESS — While the Cherokee Nation Health Committee spent Tuesday morning discussing plans for its feasibility study for Hastings Indian Medical Center, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians announced its own plan to take over the hospital.

The UKB announced its “intent to contract all Indian Health Services facilities in the Tahlequah services unit” in a press release, stating UKB members “have been traditionally underserved by the IHS facilities in the area.”

IHS operates the hospital, but the Indian Self-Determination Act provides the option for the Cherokees to take management control of the facility. The Cherokee Nation already operates the contract health services department for HIMC, and the feasibility study will examine whether the tribe will assume some or all operations of its direct care services.

Cherokee Nation Communications Director Mike Miller indicated the UKB may be setting its sights too high.

“The UKBCIO has no right or ability to run a hospital,” said Miller. “They don’t have the governmental authority to dispense aspirin, much less do surgery. Over the past 15 years of IHS contracting, the Cherokee Nation has built a health system of nine clinics that is the envy of tribes all over the country.”

Miller believes the UKB announcement is posturing, and won’t be followed by results, as the tribe lacks jurisdiction to make such a decision.

“This will go the way of all grand announcements the UKBCIO makes, like their fleet of 100 trucks, and their casinos in Arkansas and Alabama – a lot of big talk, but nothing ever actually happens,” said Miller. “In the grand scheme of things, this is just another sad attempt by UKBCIO to assert rights it doesn’t have.”

According to Miller, IHS contracts with tribes to operate health care facilities based on a tribe’s treaty rights and jurisdictional area.

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