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Pawnee Nation is ready to start construction on new health center

PAWNEE, Okla. ? The Pawnee Nation is ready to begin construction on a new health center to replace its aging clinic.

It has taken more than 20 years for the plans and funding to come together to replace the 73-year-old clinic. Estimated completion date for the new facility is December 2003.

Although all of the funding for the new 67,000 square foot building isn't nailed down, the tribe has received $1.7 million in federal funds to pay for design of the building. The tribe is waiting for a $5 million appropriation to begin construction.

The current clinic staff will increase from 50 to 141 after the building is completed and will include physical therapy and ultrasounds as part of the new services to be offered at the clinic.

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The building used by the IHS is 27,000 square feet and was built in 1928. In the 1960s the tribe was promised a new facility, but in 1981, when the hospital was closed and only outpatient services were available, the tribe was still waiting for that new building.

Muriel Robedeaux, project coordinator, said the only thing left is to secure funding. She said she hopes elders and handicapped members of the tribe will find the new clinic more user friendly.

"The access is pretty horrible, especially for the handicapped and the elders," Robedeaux said. "It's a beautiful facility, but it just costs so much to keep up with the new regulations. Plus, there's just not enough space for our clients."