DALLAS — The Chickasaw Nation will build a new health facility to replace its overcrowded hospital in Ada, Okla., using proceeds from tomorrow’s negotiated sale of $90 million of revenue bonds. The new 72-bed facility will more than triple the capacity of the tribe’s existing 51-bed Carl Albert Indian Health Facility in Ada. The new facility will encompass about 370,000 square feet, compared with about 130,000 square feet in the existing hospital. The new hospital will serve members of the Chickasaw Nation and other Native Americans. The existing facility was designed to accommodate 20,500 patient visits a year, but last year it provided services to almost 250,000. “Our current hospital just cannot handle the number of patients coming into the facility,” said Wes Brantley, the tribe’s retired chief financial officer who is serving as a consultant for the bond issue. “We have to have more room.” In addition to the bond proceeds, the Chickasaw council has appropriated $58.5 million of tribal funds, mostly from its gambling operations, to finance the $148.5 million hospital facility.The issue is rated BBB-minus by Fitch Ratings and will not be insured. BOSC Inc. is underwriter for the bonds. Kutak Rock LLP is the tribe’s bond counsel. There is no financial adviser. The Chickasaw Nation is the 13th largest federally recognized tribe in the United States with about 35,000 citizens. Most members live in the 13-county tribal jurisdiction in south-central Oklahoma.The bonds are the first debt ever issued by the tribe, Brantley said.
“When we have a need for something, we generally save up the money until we can afford it,” he said. “But this time we had such a pressing need that we decided we needed to hurry up and get this project under way.” The existing facility was built in 1985 by the tribe and operated by the federal Indian Health Service. In 1994, the tribe agreed to take over operations at the hospital in return for an annual stipend from the federal government, making it the first tribe in the nation to operate its own hospital and health clinics. Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby ordered a study on replacing the Albert facility in 2005. The decision to build a new hospital was based on the study’s cost estimates that showed it was almost as expensive to upgrade the current facility as to build a new one. “We’re going to be able to consolidate some of the satellite clinics into this new facility, and that will allow us to cut our overhead in half,” Brantley said. “In addition, we can keep the Albert hospital running while we’re building the new one.” Although the hospital will be a sophisticated, fully accredited facility with an emergency department, labor rooms, and modern operating rooms, it will incorporate some unique traditional Indian features. The building’s facades and terrazzo floor are based on traditional Chickasaw neckwear, and Chickasaw art and cultural items will be featured throughout the hospital. Many of the signs at the facility will be in the Chickasaw language as well as English, and an outdoor area has been set aside as a traditional tribal ceremonial healing site. “Going to a hospital is always a scary experience,” Brantley said. “We’ve put some cultural things into the design that we hope will make it more comforting to our citizens.” To alleviate concerns that health service revenues might not be sufficient for operational expenses as well as debt service, the Tribal Council has agreed to yearly contributions of 125% of the annual debt service. “We did that to provide a little bit of comfort to the investors,” Brantley said. “Not many investors have experience with tribal bonds, and nobody has experience with our bonds.”