NEW TOWN Three Affiliated Tribes officials are waiting and watching as their funding request for staffing and operating costs for the tribes' new health center makes its way through Congress.
President Obama's fiscal year 2012 budget request for the Indian Health Service for the Three Affiliated Tribes' new health center is for $8.3 million for staffing and operating costs.
However, Congress is in process of writing its own budget and has not reached any final conclusions, including the final dollar amount of it.
This is the main entry (middle circular structure) of the new Elbowoods Memorial Health Center being built at New Town, shown in this photo taken this week. The photo is looking northeast. The main entry is designed as an earthlodge and its exterior now has a brick veneer on it representing the color of the bluffs along Lake Sakakawea.
Mervin Packineau, tribal treasurer and Parshall-Lucky Mound representative to the business council, said the funding would be for staffing and operations when the tribes establish 24/7 emergency care and medical services at the facility. He said the plans are to treat both Indian and non-Indian patients at the new facility.
V. Judy Brugh, chairwoman of the tribal Health Committee, who is tribal secretary and Four Bears representative to the business council, said the new health center first will operate as an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. facility until they get the ambulance service and other emergency needs in place.
Construction of the new health center now is about 50 percent complete, said Jim Foote, project manager.
"The company worked all the way through the winter. We were fortunate to get it enclosed before the weather got real bad and we got too much snow," he said.
Marion Trucking and Construction Co. of Dunseith is the general contractor and Comstock Construction Inc. of Wahpeton is the subcontractor. HDR, an architectural firm in Denver, did the design.
An authorization for $20 million for the health center for the Three Affiliated Tribes was approved by Congress in the early 2000s.
In 2008, $3 million in federal funds were provided for architects and engineering and then in 2009, $17 million was approved for the health center's construction. Ground breaking was held in October 2009.
"Once we got the funding we moved ahead and have been moving forward since," Foote said.
Packineau said this first phase of the project includes a helipad. "It will have a helipad there and hopefully, that cuts down on the time to transport patients," he said.
Tribal officials are working with NorthStar Criticare, Trinity Hospital's critical-care helicopter service, to provide the helicopter service to the Minot hospital.
The second phase of the project will include housing and adding programs that are not in the first phase. The second-phase programs include the kidney dialysis unit, dental and diabetes.
Providing housing is part of the health center project.
"We're working on the housing. Without good-quality housing we can't draw the doctors and nurses we need," Packineau said.
Sixty percent of the site development for housing southwest of the health center is complete.
The health center will replace the existing Minne-Tohe Health Center west of New Town, the main medical facility for the Three Affiliated Tribes. The Minne-Tohe's services will be expanded at the new facility but it will not be a hospital.
"We've been working for a long time on this," Packineau said. He said the existing clinic has been outgrown.
"A hospital was promised a long time ago," Packineau said, referring to the hospital that was located in Elbowoods, a Fort Berthold community now covered with the waters of Lake Sakakawea.
"This won't be a hospital but this is going to be a quality product. What we still need is a regional hospital," he said.
The health center, a 43,000-square-foot facility in the first phase, is designed for expansion. It sits on about 180 acres.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in charge of the construction project. When the health center is completed, it will be turned over to the IHS.
The construction is on schedule for the new facility to open in late August.
"Everything is moving along and I think we'll meet the deadline this fall. The construction company has done a fantastic job of working through the winter months," Brugh said. She said staff at the existing facility, the Minne-Tohe, are anxious for the move and having more space.