Sunday, June 29, 2008

Cherokee Nation Raises the Bar on Indian Health Care

Hastings Indian Hospital Operations

As the Cherokee Nation continues to move forward with the negotiations to assume operations at the Hastings Indian Health Service facility, I wanted to offer a perspective from the Claremore Indian Hospital service area.

Rogers County Cherokees only have Indian Health Service (IHS) for clinic, hospital, inpatient contract health and outpatient contract health. Cherokee Nation only provides Behavioral Health services and Public Health Nursing Services in Rogers County.

Rogers County Cherokees do not have the luxury of picking and choosing between Cherokee Nation and Indian Health Service as their public health provider. Every day, Rogers County Indians are faced with shortages of funds, providers and services created by the lack of flexibility inherent to Federal Indian Health Service guidelines.

IHS facilities have incredible staff unable to shine under the umbrella of Federal bureaucracy.

Cherokee Nation Health Services has constantly performed better than other Oklahoma IHS facilities, from my experience. And, the level of care is comparable to private physicians in the area.

As a recent participant in the IHS negotiations, I want to thank the team of staff who gave up weeks of their lives to move this incredible opportunity forward on behalf of the Cherokee people and other tribes served by the Hastings Indian Hospital. Chief Smith's administration has kept the Tribal Council well informed about each step of the negotiations and process.

The Cherokee Nation provides a comprehensive health care system which equates to better care for the patient, expanded health services for the same dollar, additional funds and opportunities which are unavailable to Federal agencies.

If the Cherokee Nation had the opportunity to assume operations of the Claremore Indian Hospital, Indians in Rogers County would finally obtain the level of care they deserve with Cherokee Nation at the helm.

I fully support the Cherokee Nation assuming operations at the Hastings Indian Hospital.

Cara Cowan Watts
Cherokee Nation Tribal Council

(letter sent to the Tahlequah Press)