Health | National

Interview: Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton on health care

Gary Batton. Photo from Facebook

In the final segment of an interview with The Durant Democrat, Chief Gary Batton of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma discusses the importance of health care and discloses plans for a new clinic:
Healthcare is very important for the Choctaws.

Yes, even when I was at housing, I always believed that there are certain components, but you have to look at people as a whole, so even thought we did housing, we built the first so called investment center. I built one in Broken Bow, and one in Poteau and the goal of the family investment center was to keep the family together and to find ways to help them keep homes. We were building homes for people but we were repossessing homes from our own people all the time and it was just like a vicious circle and you start saying, ‘how come people are not able to keep their homes?’

They weren’t educated. They didn’t have jobs, so you start trying to partner their education. They weren’t healthy, so we started working with their health system. I always felt like I’ve tried to have an approach from a total perspective.

But then in 2007 when I became assistant chief, one of the things Chief Pyle asked me to do was put together a common development plan and that’s when we grew the Durant casino to what it is today. We built a casino in Grant. We built a casino in McAlester, and one in Wright City. We added some travel plazas and we did our 8A companies. I felt like, it was a struggle for me. I was always a service guy, I mean hands on.

My degree is in business management. I know the business side of it. But that’s more just the dollar perspective, but thank goodness our businesses grew drastically. Our income really started increasing where we were able to provide services to our people and to the community. I tried to keep that answer short but that how it happened.

We hear rumors of a new, well may not be rumor, but I haven’t found confirmation, of a new hospital in the area, or, a new clinic?

We are building a new clinic. I think the reason people are referring to it as a hospital, is because of size.

You’ve heard it too?

Yes, this clinic if you can imagine, but going back, I built a hospital in Talahina, 126,000 square foot, 37 in-patient bed, small, but then we also have a huge ambulatory component to it. This new clinic, I just saw some numbers on it the other day, it will be 130,000 square feet. It will have 200 plus employees in it. So that’s a big clinic if you compare it to some of the other clinics here. The reason why I say it is so big is it goes by the number of people in the service area. So, Bryan County has that many Native Americans living in it, to justify that big of a clinic. We are going to have ambulatory surgery in it too. Of course we will always have primary care and the usual doctors, pediatric, lab, X-ray, CT, all that.

Get the Story:
Choctaw chief talks of healthcare (The Durant Democrat 6/21)

Related Stories:
Interview: Chief Gary Batton of Choctaw Nation shares struggles (6/16)
Interview: Chief Gary Batton of Choctaw Nation shares philosophy (6/8)
ICT interview with Gary Batton, new leader of Choctaw Nation (05/22)
Choctaw Nation swears in first new chief in nearly two decades (04/29)
Choctaw Nation Chief Greg Pyle set to retire after 17 years (4/22)

Join the Conversation