Former K-Mart in Ada, turned COVID-19 Health Center by Chickasaw Nation

By: Chez Oxendine

A former K-Mart in Ada, Oklahoma is currently undergoing a transformation, according to an announcement from the Chickasaw Nation.

The repurposed facility will serve as a “unified incident command center, a COVID-19 drive-through testing and vaccination site, and an optional COVID-19 strategic personal protective equipment inventory storage facility,” the release states.

The new site will also act as a coordination point between local, state, tribal, federal, and other emergency management systems, the release continues.

“COVID-19 testing there will be dedicated to the mitigation of and response to the public health emergency using touchless, drive-thru service,” the announcement states. “It will also serve as a mass immunization site when a vaccine becomes readily available and as a community-based distribution point for additional services such as emergency rations, water and PPE.”

Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby called the project part of an “integrated approach” to the COVID-19 crisis.

“Individuals are facing a wide variety of challenges as a result of this pandemic,” Anoatubby said. “Our leadership team has developed an integrated approach to services designed to help meet the current and long-term needs associated with this public health emergency. We continue placing a high priority on helping contain this virus to help protect the health, lives and long-term economic prosperity of our citizens and neighbors.”

Other projects under that umbrella include a new “alternate site care facility” on the Chickasaw Nation’s Ada Medical Center campus, as well as two more buildings to serve as emergency temporary recovery units, the release states.

“Alternate site care facilities” are typically constructed in times of crisis, said Chickasaw Nation Secretary of Health Charles Grim.

“Whenever you have a long-term issue, which we seem to have with COVID, you start needing more capacity than you have in your current facility; that’s where you start hearing about alternate site care facilities,” Grim said.

The facility will stand at approximately 12,000 square feet, large enough to house 48 beds.
“It will only be used for this type of care when we exceed our capacity in the medical center,” Grim said. “The rest of the time it will be used as a nurse training facility. Nurses will have actual enclosed rooms and mannequins that can simulate almost any human medical condition.”

Grim said the tribe plans to start “mass immunizations” at the facility when a vaccine becomes available.

Meanwhile, the two new emergency temporary recovery units are meant to relieve pressure on the Chickasaw “Hina Chokma” program, said Chickasaw Nation Family Services secretary Jay Keel.

Both buildings will house three bedrooms each with a private bathroom, making room for up to 20 beds for isolating COVID-19 patients, the release states.

“We’ve [Hina Chokma] been forced to operate at fifty percent capacity because of the coronavirus,” Keel said. “This gives us much needed additional space with which to safely supply the care they deserve.”

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