By JONAH LOSSIAH
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority CEO Casey Cooper spoke to Tribal Council during the regular session on the morning of Thursday, Sept. 3 to discuss issues with fully reopening the hospital’s Dental Clinic.
Big Cove Rep. Richard French used his time for announcements to call up Cooper, stating that members of the community have reached out to him because of the troubles they’ve had with getting appoints.
Cooper said that to help with clarification, he wished to lay out current operations and what they hoped to open soon. “The current services that are available today are clinic emergency triage, both adults and peds…Simple and surgical extractions are happening now. Pediatric extractions and routine fillings. Dentures, partials, and school screenings are happening now.”
“We’ve set a target date to start these on the fourteenth (Sept. 14) of this month. That is routine cleanings for adults and pediatrics, deep cleanings, emergency fillings, permanent crowns that are already in progress, and high-risk pregnancy exams.”
Cooper said that procedures on that list will be prioritized once they are available. For instance, emergency fillings would be pushed ahead of others due to a backlog of appointments and the matter of urgency.
“It’s my understanding that we’re going to need to delay about six months on new cases for endodontics or root canals, needing crowns, and it’ll be about six months before new patients can be scheduled for routine exams,” said Cooper.
He stated that the primary issue for delays in opening the Dental Clinic comes with the situation with N-95 masks at the hospital.
“It’s my understanding that we’re concerned about how fast we’ll burn through our current inventory. According to the Chief Dentist this morning, they estimate that they will burn through about 36 masks per day if they were to open up wide open,” said Cooper.
He says they have access to about 42,000 medium masks. However, in the Dental Clinic, there is a higher need for small masks to have a proper fit. There are only about 5,000 of those small masks available. Cooper also said that an additional worry is the variable aspects moving forward. He said with flu season coming up, they would have to account for an increased number masks to maintain hygiene.
Cooper said that currently they can make orders, but that there is no delivery date on those orders due to such high demand nationwide.
Birdtown Rep. Albert Rose said that he would be in touch with the CIHA in hopes of finding another supplier of N-95 masks.
The discussion then turned to a request to streamline the scheduling system at the Dental Clinic. Painttown Rep. Dike Sneed shared a personal anecdote of his inability to book an appointment before the pandemic.
After several minutes of discussion, Tribal Council Chairman Adam Wachacha called for the issue to be moved to a later date. He advised that the topic should be brought up at the next Health Board meeting that is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 16.