Yellowhawk should be ready for patients in March 2018

November 2017, CUJ

By the CUJ

MISSION – The “last pen will land on a desk in March of 2018” at a new 63,000 square foot Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center following more than xx months of construction.

Commissioners on a tour of the building.

Greg Ponder leads a tour through the new Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center in mid October. From left Health Commission Members Martina Gordon, Bob Shippentower, Aaron Hines, Woodrow Star and Chair Shawna Gavin listen to details regarding the multiple quadrants of the building.

Leaders explaining the vision of the courtyard.

From left Health Commission member Bob Shippentower and TERO Commission Member Alan Crawford listen to TERRO worker Mike Van Pelt explain the vision of the center courtyard to be placed at the new Yellowhawk building. Van Pelt is speaking to Health Commission member Woodrow Star. In the background are construction contractors helping lead the tour.

Interior construction progress photo.

The construction of the health center was scheduled to complete in late summer with a grand opening scheduled for fall of this year. Construction is now scheduled to be completed in December. Pictured above are laborers and construction workers on-site during a guided tour through the facility in mid October.


The new facility is located on what’s known as the Bowman Property just west of the Nixyaawii Governance Center on the Umatilla Indian Reservation. It will put under one roof all the health-care services currently offered in several buildings, including the old Yellowhawk facility, scattered around the July Grounds in the Mission housing area.

Improved patient health care is the number one priority, said Health Commission Chair Shawna Gavin, but there is plenty to be excited about in the new building.

Members of the Commission, she said, are particularly excited about the “stunning” dental facilities, which will more than double in size and offer patients much more privacy.

Currently there are four dental chairs; the new clinic will have 10 chairs.

“It’s amazing,” Gavin said. “There’s a lot more privacy. You’ll be able to look out the window. It will be aesthetically pleasing to the patient while they get their teeth drilled.”

The Commission also is energized by the solar power that will offset power usage, starting with a 70KW system currently bid into the construction. The roofs are pre-wired to accommodate an additional 230KW, which will make the building completely net zero energy consumption once equipped with solar panels.

“Tamastslikt has demonstrated that it’s a feasible option,” Gavin said, referring to the museum’s use of solar panels on its carports (the cultural institute also has a wind turbine in its quest to offset all electrical use with renewable energy sources). “Solar panels are just exciting. It’s a move forward. We’re doing it, not just talking about it.”

Toward that net zero goal, the heating and cooling system, along with improved insulation and high efficiency windows, are designed to cut the consumption of power to half of the current building code.

“The Health Commission throughout the process has had its finger in that part of the pie. We’re going to be down to net zero when it’s finally done,” Gavin said. “That was the goal when we started to build and that’s special to all of us.”

Gavin can quickly run down a list of highlights in the new facility, including:

  • building materials are intended to construct a low-maintenance structure.
  • the architecture is designed for better patient flow and integrated health services.
  • medical exam rooms and counseling rooms will expand to double from 10 to 20.
  • two telemedicine rooms will offer specialty work not available within the local area.
  • activity rooms will be available for prevention and community health.
  • employee work areas are all team rooms where staff will work together to provide patients the complete services they need.
  • due to team-room concept, additional talking rooms are available for private conversations throughout the building.
  • conference rooms are dividable into three sections similar to the way the General Council chambers can be separated.
  • a demonstration kitchen will offer cooking classes for patients.
  • there will be exercise rooms for supervised workouts.
  • larger team rooms for Behavioral Health group sessions as well as private consultation rooms.

In general, Gavin said, the areas will allow more flexibility for future medical services. There will be areas for physical therapy, audiology and optometry, which will be brought on in the first year of the clinic’s opening.

Gavin wanted to give a “shout out” to earlier Health Commissions that had the foresight to set aside money to start the process toward a new clinic.

“I don’t know what year but I know Sandy Sampson was chair. That Health Commission had a vision for a new clinic,” Gavin said. “It’s exciting to get it done now.”

Gavin said she remembers when she was first appointed to the Health Commission, member Myrna Tovey raised her hand and asked, “Is this going to happen or are we just talking about it?”

“We got it done so Myrna can see it,” Gavin said.

Tovey retired from the Commission after several years at the end of October.

Gavin also named Betty McLane for her work on the project.

“Betty was crucial. She was painstaking with the numbers. If she thought there was anything out of place she stopped the process until it was figured out,” Gavin said.

Moving in by March is not going to be an easy task. Some of the existing equipment, such as the X-ray machine, will have to be dismantled, moved, and then put back together. All new dental equipment will have to be installed.

“It won’t be the same as when we moved from below to NGC,” Gavin said. “It won’t be a matter of boxing things up.”