Building plans for a new and larger Wahzhazhe Health Center along Main Street in Pawhuska are going forward and include a Nov. 20 groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the Osage Nation milestone.
The new 63,000-square-foot two-story clinic project also comes after the Eighth ON Congress approved a resolution (ONCR 24-04 sponsored by Congresswoman Paula Stabler) for a limited waiver of sovereign immunity from suit in the $50 million loan agreement with Bank of Oklahoma. The Congress approved ONCR 24-04 with an 11-0 vote on Nov. 2 while meeting for the 8th Special Session.
The groundbreaking is scheduled at 11 a.m. at the new clinic site along Main Street’s southside where the former Safeway grocery store was located.
A new Wahzhazhe Health Center is a long-time wish for the Nation’s government and ON Health System officials, as well as patients who have advocated for a larger clinic to replace the current 46-year-old overcrowded clinic located on the government campus between the Executive Branch building and the Minerals Council Chambers.
Before the resolution vote, Stabler recalled discussions for a new clinic date back at least 20 years and “it kept getting turned down because we felt like we weren’t ready, and we have finally reached that point and moment where we felt we are ready … I want to thank all the people from 20 years back to present for moving this forward step by step by step. It’s going to be a grand accomplishment for this Nation. It’s going to hopefully be the pride of the entire region and the county for those who are going to find services there.”
“This two-story facility is over six times larger than the size of the existing clinic,” according to a Wahzhazhe Communications statement. “The additional square feet (53,000 sq. ft.) will significantly increase the functionality of various healthcare departments by expanding services and enhancing patient care. As you enter the grand atrium, the first floor will consist of primary care and clinic space; CT, X-ray, and imaging; laboratory testing and storage; and pharmacy.
The second floor will house most of the departments provided. The Diabetes Department, located in the center of the building, will include a dietary component with a full-time dietitian and a demonstration kitchen for proper nutritional education. Next to the Diabetes Department will be the Optometry Department, consisting of a vision retail space. Dental and Physical Therapy Departments can be found on the north side of the building. The east end of the building will leave shelled-out space for future growth and services. Administration offices and an employee fitness room can also be found on the second floor.”
“It’s going to eliminate a lot of travel for our people who go to (outside appointment) referrals,” Stabler said. “It’s going to increase the level of care for not just our people, but others … In the tribes that use this clinic for services, half of the people who come are Cherokee … there’s about six (Indigenous) nations that use these services. I think this is a wonderful day to get us across this side. And I also want to thank the health boards – past and present – the Si-Si-A-Pe-Txa staff that have been phenomenal to get us over these hurdles that are necessary and onto bigger and better things from here.”
ONCR 24-04 passed with 11 “yes” votes and one absence that day from Congresswoman Whitney Red Corn and was signed by Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear afterward.
The new Wahzhazhe Health Clinic will be governed by the Si-Si A-Pe-Txa Board and the Osage Nation Health System. In a statement, Cindra Shangreau, chairwoman of the Si-Si A-Pe-Txa (health) Board, stated, “This has been quite some time in the making, and we appreciate everyone who stepped up and contributed to making this day a reality. Our sincerest appreciation goes out to Chief Standing Bear, the entire Executive Branch, and the Osage Nation Congress, who made this moment a reality. Most of all, we thank our Osage Tribal members for their unwavering support in moving the Health System into the future, along with our employees’ and executive leadership team’s dedication!”