Cherokee hospital

Dr. Douglas Nolan, Dr. Roger Montgomery, Chief of Staff Todd Enlow, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Dr. Sharon Smallwood, Hastings CEO Brian Hail, Nurse Practitioner Whitney Essex, Senior Director of Health Business Operations Wayne Coldwell and Dr. Jorge Mera pose Monday during an announcement about reducing wait times at Cherokee medical facilities. Courtesy/Cherokee Nation

The Cherokee Nation will reorganize health-clinic staffs in an effort to reduce how much time patients spend waiting, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. announced Monday during the opening of a new outpatient facility in Tahlequah.

From checking in to leaving a clinic, appointments often take as long as two hours, according to a recent Cherokee Nation study of patient health visits.

Hoskin’s plan, part of his “first 100 days initiatives” as the tribe’s new principal chief, includes creating a position for patient advocates who will focus on customer service.

“With the opening of our new outpatient health facility, which has more than 240 exam rooms and these patient advocates in place to help guide our citizens,” Hoskin said, “we know we are on the right track to improving quality of care and achieving quicker wait times for our Cherokee people.”

With more than 1.3 million patient visits per year, the Cherokee Nation operates the largest tribal health system in the United States.

On Monday, a new four-story, 469,000-square-foot outpatient health center opened its optometry, audiology, physical rehabilitation, behavioral health, radiology, lab and pharmacy services. Other parts of the facility, including primary care and dental offices, will open Oct. 21, with a grand-opening ceremony planned for Nov. 14.

“Cherokee Nation is blessed with a dedicated team of health staff,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner said, “an unmatched health infrastructure, and with an increased focus on patient care, we are setting the bar high in Indian Country.”

Since taking office in August, Hoskin has also increased minimum wage at Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses to $11 an hour, launched a $30 million housing, jobs and sustainable communities’ initiative, invested $16 million into Cherokee language preservation and appointed a Cherokee Nation delegate to Congress.

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Michael Overall

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