MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

January 15, 2008

Keetoowahs to seek control of W.W. Hastings Hospital




TAHLEQUAH — The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma announced Tuesday it will attempt to contract to operate area Indian Health Services facilities, including W.W. Hastings Indian Hospital.

The UKB request includes all facilities in IHS’s Tahlequah Service Unit: W.W. Hastings Indian Hospital and other federally funded health service units, health programs and clinics operated or staffed by IHS.

The Cherokee Nation said last week it is considering a bid to manage Hastings.

A UKB media release states the tribe anticipates immediate discussions with the IHS. The UKB will make efforts to discuss the plan with with the present Tahlequah Service Unit employees as part of an effort to retain present IHS employees after the facilities are operated by the UKB, the release states.

The UKB has 12,000 members, 97 percent of whom live within the boundaries of its tribal jurisdiction in eastern Oklahoma, said spokesman Sammy Still.

He said the UKB is covered under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act, and “they (Cherokee Nation) are not.”

He said other tribes in the jurisdiction are to be in agreement with anyone contracting Hastings.

“UKB tribal members are not getting fair treatment in health care or contract services — mainly because of the contract for contract services,” Still said. “As UKB members, we’re being denied services. We’re trying to get contract services out of IHS — not trying to fight with the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. We’re trying to get service we should receive.”

He said although UKB are one-fourth bloods and anyone who has a Certificate Degree of Indian Blood card or anyone who is Native American would be served.