The U.S. includes many American Indian Tribal Nations. One of these tribal nations is the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
The tribe lived in the American Southeast for about 1,800 years. This included present-day Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Most of the Choctaw were forced to relocate to Oklahoma. After settling in Oklahoma, the Choctaw re-established their government by adopting a new constitution. In June 1983, the Choctaws also adopted a new updated constitution with a balance of powers among executive, legislative and judicial branches.
The Choctaw Nation headquarters is in Durant, Oklahoma.
“The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma was the first tribe to build a hospital with tribal funds in 1999 in Talihina, Oklahoma. In addition, nine other clinic facilities have been added in rural communities in southeastern Oklahoma,” says Manasi Ghatpande, director of biomedical engineering, Choctaw Nation Health Services Authority, located at the Durant Regional Medical Clinic in Durant, Oklahoma.
She says that biomed supports the entire Choctaw Nation Health Services Authority. The Choctaw Nation Health Care Center in Talihina is a state-of-the-art 152,894 square foot facility consisting of 44 inpatient beds, including 12 labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum (LDRP) suites. All hospital rooms are private.
“In addition, the hospital offers a surgery center, family practice, pediatrics, laboratory, radiology, pharmacy, physical therapy, respiratory therapy, optometry, audiology, dental, a full-service dietary department, 24/7 emergency department and much more. The Choctaw Nation Health Care Center is the hub of our health system with eight outlying clinics located in Atoka, Broken Bow, Durant, Hugo, Idabel, McAlester, Poteau and Stigler,” Ghatpande says.
She says that the biomedical engineering department services all the medical equipment, both fixed and portable, used for the diagnosis, treatment and monitoring during patient care. The department, including Ghatpande and Technician Kaleb Kasitz, is located at the Durant Clinic and supports the Durant and Atoka Clinics.
In Talihina, the biomed team includes Manager Caleb Lacy and biomed technicians Jess Atteberry, Clancy Mahan and Anthony Fratta who support the Talihina Health Care Center (inpatient hospital) and the McAlester Clinic. Tyler Ludlow is the administrative assistant who supports both facilities.
Biomed Technician James Bowling provides service to the Idabel, Hugo and Broken Bow Clinics. Biomed Technician Joshua Doles services the Poteau and Stigler clinics.
Ghatpande says that patient care is their top priority.
“Choctaw tribal members and Native Americans from all parts of the country are served in our health care facility. Frequently we have patients travelling interstate to be seen in one of our CNHSA facilities, hence the equipment down-time being minimal is crucial,” she says.
The biomeds in the department have a diverse skill set and varied duties.
“Biomed is responsible for the entire life cycle of the medical equipment which includes planning and choosing the best suited technology through the procurement process, installation, calibration and maintenance, until disposal,” Ghatpande says.
She says that the biomed department also shares responsibility with the facilities department for medical freezers and vaccine refrigerators.
“Along with infection control, biomed also supports powered air purifying respirator CAPR units and UV disinfecting lights. It also supports non-direct patient care systems like nurse call, patient room TVs and the infant abduction prevention system,” Ghatpande adds.
Introducing the Profession and Upgrading Clinics
The Choctaw Nation Health Services Authority has done much to provide quality health care services to the surrounding communities. This effort has generated several projects for the biomed team. The group is even proactive in bringing the benefits of the profession to a new generation of biomeds.
“Currently, biomed is involved in clinic expansion, nurse call upgrades and infant security systems projects. Biomed also participates in Hospital Day for high school students in the fall, where we set up a booth with an interactive presentation and games to engage students, pique their curiosity and encourage them to explore biomedical engineering as a field,” Ghatpande says.
“[The] Biomed field is relatively unknown, especially in southeastern rural parts of Oklahoma. Choctaw Nation offers internships to Choctaw students, where they can receive hands-on experience in the field of biomed. Our HR facilitates Hospital Day for high school students where students are invited. We set up a booth with trivia questions and crossword puzzle games to engage students,” Ghatpande adds.
She says that one of challenges of being rural is the availability of field service engineers to service the clinic location areas even though there is a service contract.
“Our biomeds often take first call when it comes to repair of equipment, with the location of the hospital and clinics, it is not always possible for vendors to provide service on an urgent basis. Our elderly patient population and travel time to facilities make equipment downtime very critical. Our biomed department stays on call to cover nights and to avoid any equipment downtime,” Ghatpande says.
In addition to introducing students to biomed or doing double-duty when required, the biomed team has been involved in a clinic expansion project at several locations.
At the Stigler Clinic, the dental clinic is expanding and moving to a newer and bigger building. There is also an expansion project where the facility is adding five dental operatories. Biomed is responsible for equipment selection, planning and installation.
“With being consistent in the equipment throughout our facilities and providers/clinical staff requirements. Biomed is also on the lookout for a selection of new evolving technology to meet our patient needs,” Ghatpande says.
She says that they are also adding a radiology department with a rad room and future expansion for an ultrasound room.
“The McAlester Clinic is doubling in size with the addition to employee health, Urgent Care clinic. Biomed will be responsible for the medical equipment and the Talihina hospital is expanding its residency clinic and specialty clinic,” Ghatpande says.
The biomed department is also tackling a nurse call upgrade project as well.
“Our nurse call 4000 responder system is retiring. We will be upgrading to the new 5K at the Talihina Hospital and 5000 at Durant clinic. Biomed works with nursing administration, by gathering the requirements and integrating nurse call with medical equipment like patient beds and TVs,” Ghatpande says.
Biomed has also been instrumental in facilitating an infant security system.
“With the expansion and addition of rooms, we are upgrading to a new infant abduction prevention system that best suits our needs,” Ghatpande adds.
The health care needs of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma are competently met every day through a modern system of health care facilities and the medical equipment is professionally managed by the experienced HTM professionals that make up the Choctaw Nation Health Services Authority Biomedical Engineering Department.
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