Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

April 24, 2008

Hospital takeover concerns mount

TAHLEQUAH DAILY PRESS — Following an announcement last week that the Cherokee Nation will assume operations of Hastings Indian Medical Center Oct. 1, some tribal officials were surprised the decision was made without a vote of the full council.

The Daily Press obtained a copy of an e-mail Dr. Brad Cobb, District 8 councilor and chairman of the health committee, sent to fellow councilors to voice his concerns.

“As chair of the health committee, this press release has personally put me in a difficult position,” wrote Cobb. “And has, at the same time, de-edified the tribal council as a whole.”

Speaker of the Council Meredith Frailey indicated Cobb is not the only person concerned about the situation.

“There have been many inquiries about the Cherokee Nation assuming operations of W.W. Hastings Indian Hospital,” wrote Frailey in a e-mail to the Daily Press. “And, rightly so, because it is a major, challenging endeavor. Many constituents have inquired whether the level of care at WWHIH will be improved under CN management.”

Frailey said several Indian Health Service employees are concerned about their jobs and benefits retention, and some council members expressed concern that the recent news release announcing the takeover gives the appearance of indifference to council opinion.

Cobb explained in his e-mail that he believes tribal councilors are elected by constituents to represent the people, and in announcing the takeover to the media and all employees, the administration effectively disenfranchised the citizenry.

“It is my belief that the Cherokee Nation and W.W. Hastings Indian Medical Center are merely in a negotiation phase,” wrote Cobb. “To assume anything more would be conjecture.”

Cobb asserted the Hastings matter should be put to a vote of the tribe’s health committee, the executive and finance committee, and finally the full council, before any move is made to take over the hospital.

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