By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Vice Chief Larry Blythe and Carmaleta Monteith, Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority Governing Board chairperson, manned trackhoes to move the first dirt for the new Cherokee Indian Hospital during a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday, March 18. The new 140,000 square foot facility is being built adjacent to the current hospital and is expected to open in January 2016.
“This is the first hospital that our community has had any say in,” said Monteith who gave a brief history of the first three hospitals in the Cherokee community.
She said the community has been a huge help in the planning for the new hospital. “It really is a hospital that is ours.”
Vice Chief Blythe commented, “The good Lord provides what we have and today I’m thankful. My heart today is thankful for what we have as a community. I’m thankful for a staff who has dedicated their lives to the well-being of our people.”
He thanked community members as well as current and former tribal leaders, “Each and every one of you had a portion in this.”
Casey Cooper, Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority CEO, commented, “We stand here today because we are dedicated to the health care of this Tribe for the next seven generations. This morning’s ceremony is yet another illustration of our Tribal leadership’s commitment to the future of our Tribe.”
During Tuesday’s event, he gave awards to various people who helped with the project throughout the years.
Yellowhill Rep. David Wolfe is the current chairman of the Health Board and worked for seven years on this project. “I just want to say thank you for those that helped us get to this day.”
Since the groundbreaking was held at the top of the hill overlooking the existing facility, he joked, “This is a fine place for a groundbreaking because this was truly an uphill struggle to get here.”
Wolfe related that his first-born daughter was born at the current facility. “I’ll always have those memories.”
Chairwoman Terri Henry related she was born in the second hospital built in Cherokee. “I want to thank everyone who has had anything to do with health care in Cherokee since the first hospital.”
She also spoke of the long road to get the new facility going. “This was a challenge to get this thing through. At the end of the day, we all want fabulous health care for our Tribe.”
“We are community people. We do come together and that is part of our strength. This is a fantastic way for this Tribe to show its self-governance. I know this community is up to the task because we are strong, resilient Cherokee people.”
Bill Stevens, of Robins and Morton, the construction company slated to manage the construction of the new facility, noted, “We recognize what a huge milestone this is for your community to build a new hospital. We are thankful and happy to be a part of this project.”
He added, “As of today, we’re meeting all of our TERO goals, we’re on schedule and we’re on budget.”
Ben Rook, an architect with Design Strategies, said he is happy to have been able to design such a facility. “Casey (Cooper) told us, I want you to design a world-class facility for our world-class staff. All of us have become aware of what a world-class staff you have.”
Rook said that community input, to the tune of 14 community meetings, has been vital to the project. “We didn’t even start putting pen to paper until we heard what you wanted. This community process is what differentiates you all.”
Miss Cherokee Madison Crowe spoke of the sense of community that you feel when you visit the Cherokee Indian Hospital which she called “a gathering place.” She said preserving the health of a community and Tribe is vital to preserving the culture.
EBCI Beloved Man Jerry Wolfe blessed the area prior to the dirt being moved. Tuesday’s event was opened with a prayer by Marie Junaluska and was closed with the Cherokee Friendship Dance led by Bo Taylor.
The new hospital is slated to cost $75 million, and the 10-year note is being financed at a rate of 1.95 percent through First Citizens Bank.
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