Despite a few weather-related delays in recent months, work is back on schedule for the new $55 million Choctaw Health Center, set to open in spring 2015.

The hospital is being built on the eastern side of the Choctaw Indian Reservation off New Frog Level Road.

Stephen Hockins, project manager for the Tribal Planning Department, said construction workers had earlier lost about 15 work days because of winter weather-related issues.

"Things are going well," he said. "We're confident we'll get the roof and walls up soon. Everything is catch-up-able."

The current schedule, Hockins said, will see construction complete by Dec. 30 of this year. The hospital is expected to open by spring 2015.

Construction began on the new hospital in September 2013.

After the weather warmed up, a "topping off" ceremony was held on Saturday, April 5 at the construction site of the new health center.

Tribal Chief Phyliss J. Anderson, CHC Director Tina Scott, Dr. Juantina Johnson and representatives from Johnson/Benchmark and Singleton Architects were on site to watch as the final high beam of the steel structure was put into place.

The ceremony was the final portion of a week-long event to give Tribal members an opportunity to be part of Choctaw history.

From Monday, March 31, to Thursday, April 3, Tribal members were invited to come by the Pearl River community pavilion to sign the beam.

Due to safety concerns at the construction site, attendance to the ceremony was limited.

The 178,000 square-foot, 20-bed Choctaw Health Center, located east of the Choctaw Tech Parc, will have a 36-room outpatient department, 18-chair dental department, several treatment rooms (two of which will be equipped for trauma), an emergency department, various treatment facilities, emergency medical services, behavioral health and community and public health services and all necessary support services.

Since work began, Hockins said, there have been no substantial changes to the plans, with the exception of adding two examination rooms.

"The scope is the same, the schedule is the same and the budget is the same," he said.

Since the groundbreaking, work had continued at a steady pace, until winter came and the weather cost them about 15 days of work overall, Hockins said.

"The mud and the cold created some days where we couldn't go out," he said.

During a recent tour of the construction site, Hockins took visitors up to the third floor where the 36-room outpatient department will be held.

He noted that the third floor was the least complete with most of the floors in place and concreted.

Hockins then led visitors to the second floor where workers were applying fireproofing to the ceiling.

He also pointed out that the second floor would feature the dental department with its own waiting area, as opposed to the current facility where all patients wait in one area.

The first floor is the most complete with most of the internal framework done.

"We chase each other through the structure," Hockins said of the construction process, noting that when one segment has been completed then the next floor up gets started.

During the tour visitors were required to wear hard hats and occasionally Hockins would point out all the safety guidelines that workers must follow.

"There have been no accidents since work began," he said. "We've been lucky and we always pay attention to safety guidelines."

The project is a joint venture between the Tribe and the Indian Health Service and is funded by USDA Rural Development and Trustmark National Bank.

Chief Anderson and Indian Health Services Director Yvette Roubideaux signed the agreement on May 15, 2014, at the Indian Health Services offices in Rockville, Md.

The venture allows the Tribe to fast-track the health campus project.

The Mississippi Choctaws were only one of seven tribes approved for the program by the Indian Health Services.

Singleton Architects of Jackson designed the building, while Johnson/Benchmark Construction of Jackson is the construction company.

Once complete the facility will be over twice the size of the current Choctaw Health Center.

Opened in 1976, the current Choctaw Health Center was built for a Tribal population of 4,000.

It now serves the 10,000 plus members of the Tribe, as well as eligible non-members.