Choctaw Nation Regional Medical Clinic Opens to 'Great Expectations'

Photo by Deidre K. Elrod/Choctaw Nation

Chief Gary Batton and Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr., center, are joined by other dignitaries to cut the ribbon in front of the new Choctaw Nation Regional Medical Clinic in Durant on Tuesday, Feb. 21.

February 22, 2017

DURANT – Dreams do come true. The Choctaw Nation Regional Medical Clinic in Durant, Oklahoma is proof of that. The facility has been years in the making. On Tuesday, Feb. 21, a ribbon was cut at the entry and the doors opened launching a new era in medical care for Choctaw people in southeastern Oklahoma. By all accounts, the Choctaw Nation Regional Medical Clinic, 1801 Chukka Hina, with the most modern equipment in use today and its staff of 300, will be a national leader in meeting primary care, out-patient needs.

“Wow! Can you believe this?” said Chief Gary Batton, as he stood in front of the new building; flags waving behind him. “This Council has been unbelievable in investing in southeastern Oklahoma and the Choctaw Nation, in improving the lives of our tribal members so that we can live out the Choctaw spirit.” After recognizing and thanking a number of individuals in the audience, Chief Batton focused on the Indian Health Service, saying IHS and the Choctaw Nation have “a true partnership.”

The ribbon-cutting ceremony opening the two-story, state-of-the-art facility drew hundreds of people from Virginia to Chicago and across Oklahoma. Congratulations could be heard throughout the crowd for the accomplishment by the Choctaw Nation Tribal Council, Choctaw Nation Health Services Authority, and tribal administration.

The half-hour ceremony, which got under way just after 10:30 a.m., began with a welcome by Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr., followed by a prayer by Councilman Joe Coley. The Choctaw Nation Color Guard posted the Choctaw Nation flag and the United States flag behind the podium. Four young princesses, Choctaw Royalty, performed in sign language as Scott Wesley sang “The Lord’s Prayer” in the Choctaw language.

More than 80 dignitaries – members of the Choctaw Tribal Council, state and city officials, Indian Health Service members, and other tribal leadership – were among the estimated 500 people in attendance.

Assistant Chief Austin introduced to the podium Rear Adm. Chris Buchanan, acting director of the Indian Health Service, Washington, D.C., and an enrolled member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.

“A joint venture agreement between the Indian Health Service and the Choctaw Nation was signed on June 5, 2015… and here we are almost two years later…,” Buchanan said. “This is unheard of. It is remarkable and exciting for progress to move that fast. It is a model for others to follow.”

Noting capabilities of the clinic, he said it “is designed to see 7,000 outpatients a year.”

In closing, Buchanan said, “With this great building, come great expectations.”

Tours of the new health facility followed the ceremony. Visitors filled the expansive lobby, wrapped around staircases, and walked hallways. Medical staff stood at doorways to explain various services offered within. The tour gave future clients a chance to become familiar with the facility that they will be using.

The Choctaw Nation Regional Medical Clinic, a block north of the Choctaw Community Center, is part of a 20-acre campus-style development, which includes three buildings that total 174,000 square feet. The three buildings include the Clinic, Health Administration, and Facilities Maintenance.

Clinic functions include Primary Care, such as WIC, Pediatrics, Geriatrics, Podiatry, Urgent Care, and Specialty Care. Also included are Behavioral Health, Rehabilitation services, Outpatient Surgery, Dental Care, Audiology, Optometry and Pharmacy (with drive-through service), and Radiology services. Also included are Employee Health, and education and meeting rooms.

Health Administration building functions include WIC, Patient Relations, Healthy Aging, CNHSA Administration, CNHSA Construction Administration, and more.

One feature that has stirred much excitement is the new, top-of-the-line MRI machine. This will allow patients from far southeastern Oklahoma to be tested in Durant, rather than having to drive to Talihina or other locations outside the tribal health system.

In a display of partnership between the Choctaw Nation and the City of Durant, crews have widened a portion of the east-west stretch of Big Lots Parkway from two lanes to four lanes. The street expansion includes the addition of a traffic light at the 9th Street intersection. The Choctaw Nation paid for the project and furnished the work crews. The city will pick up the cost for ongoing maintenance of the city street.

Also to come are lighted walking trails that wind around a new lake and pond with bridges and landscaping.

Much of the southern exterior especially is covered in the new "Choctaw Blend" brick, which was created exclusively by the ACME brick company of Fort Smith, Arkansas for the Choctaw Nation. The multi-hued red brick has already drawn interest, and the company plans to make it available to the general public now that the clinic is open.

Not viewable, but of utmost importance are the environmental and safety features of the construction. Behind the waterproof sealant protection are fire-rated materials on walls throughout the building. The facility is certified as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building, which is a nationally accepted organization for design, operation and construction of high performance “green” buildings. As part of this certification, the clinic has a geothermal heating-and-cooling system.

Aesthetics have not been forgotten either. Sculptures of life-sized figures dressed in traditional tribal attire by artist Mathew Placzek stand outside the entry, and artwork by a number of other Choctaw artists lines the interior walls.

The main lobby on the east side of the structure has walls with glass to the ceiling.

“It will be a great view of the new headquarters,” said an engineer about the new Choctaw Nation Headquarters going in next door. But the glass does more than provide a view. Bordering the grand staircase of the lobby, the south-side wall consists of Sage glass. It required both glass installers and electricians to be involved in the placement. The special glass panels have electric sensors that tint according to the amount of sunlight hitting them, providing cost and energy savings, and temperature control.

The Choctaw Nation Regional Medical Clinic opened to Primary Care clients Tuesday afternoon following the ceremony. Specialty Services are expected to be open in two weeks. The former clinic office, located at 1600 N. Washington Ave., is now closed. The phone number remains the same, 580-920-2100.

Also, there is now a Choctaw Nation Health Service app, which can be obtained free from The App Store or Google Apps. Once downloaded to a smartphone, the app can be used to make appointments and re-fill prescriptions.