Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

March 28, 2014

Cherokee Nation Health expansion takes over old building

TAHLEQUAH — As the Cherokee Nation continues its multimillion-dollar health facility expansion, new life is being breathed into an old building in downtown Tahlequah.

The tribe has owned the building on the northeast corner of Water and Choctaw, formerly Homeland/Safeway, for a number of years, and it was previously home to Cherokee Nation Industries. By the end of the summer, renovations will be complete, and about 60 Cherokee Nation Health Services employees will call it home.

“The building includes 25,000 square feet of space,” said Connie Davis, executive director of CN Health Services. “Once the renovations are complete, half of the building will be used for medical records storage, scanning and the compliance officers, or about 20 employees. They have 9,000 square feet of space right now, and when they move in here, they’ll have about 12,000 feet. When you take into consideration the records for a million patient visits per year, that’s a lot of information.”

According to Davis, given the amount of space the tribe currently leases for health services, renovating a building the tribe owns just makes good business sense.

“The chief has been working for over a year to move us out of rented space,” said Davis. “He’s been working with architects for well over six months on planning for the space, weighing our current needs with our future needs, and figuring out the best use of the facility for the least expense.”

In addition to medical records and compliance, the building also has offices for the Health Services Information Technology Department.

“They’re in 7,000 square feet of space now, and they’ll have 10,000 to 11,000 feet here,” said Davis. “The building will be set up with the appropriate security, ventilation and firewalls. While some of the Health IT department will remain on-site at Hastings, the majority of them will be moving here.”

All total, the building will house about 60 employees, but the facility also includes two vast rooms for conferences and training.

“We plan on doing lots of training here,” said Davis. “Just having a space large enough to accommodate training classes has been a challenge. One conference room has 12,000 square feet of space and will have a full kitchen. We’re also adding a number of restrooms and bringing everything up to Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.”

Additional parking will be added to the north side of the building.

“As you can imagine, with 60 employees, the front lot will fill very quickly,” said Davis. “We’re adding an additional parking lot in the back for overflow when we have training sessions and meetings.”

Davis said the tribe plans to fully implement its electronic health records system within a year.

“This building will give us the space to conduct all the training with the vendor right here, instead of having to send our people elsewhere,” said Davis. “Plus, we like that the building is centrally located here in the middle of town, and think it will be a boost to the downtown economy.”

Davis said health services staff have been included throughout the planning stages.

“They’ve been involved in the layout, and have had input on the working conditions,” said Davis. “We’re very excited about the move, and hope to have the building finished this summer.”

tsnell@tahlequahdailypress.com

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