Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is celebrating strong and vibrant cultures and traditions on the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal Day.
National Aboriginal Day was proclaimed 20 years ago to provide an opportunity to acknowledge the unique achievements of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. Today, on the 7th annual National Aboriginal Day celebrations at the Health Sciences Centre, we honour the outstanding achievements of Indigenous people in our community and hospital.
In addition to celebration, this day also provides an opportunity to reflect on the Health Sciences Centre’s commitment to Indigenous Health, one of the five strategic directions of the Strategic Plan 2020.
“We have set goals to guide us in our journey towards excellence in Indigenous health care delivery,” said Jean Bartkowiak, President and CEO. “We know that to improve experiences and outcomes for Indigenous patients, it is critical that Indigenous health activities are focused and impactful. The Indigenous Advisory Committee is invaluable in terms of shaping and monitoring our progress in Indigenous Health provision. The members’ input ensures we are considering and addressing the unique needs of Indigenous patients and their families, so that we can implement services and supports that are relevant.”
The Indigenous Advisory Committee is comprised of external representatives of organizations such as Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Matawa, Ontario Native Women’s Association, and Dilico Anishinabek Family Care, as well as community members. Natalie Paavola, the Health Director at Dilico, volunteers her time to sit on the committee and also took part in today’s celebration.
“As an Indigenous woman, it’s really encouraging that our Health Sciences Centre is committed to understanding our unique challenges and circumstances with regards to health care,” said Paavola. “I welcome the opportunity to share my knowledge and experiences in the pursuit of solutions and I really hope that together, we can bring about positive changes that promote cultural awareness and respect.”
In addition to the Indigenous Advisory Committee, the Health Sciences Centre also has an Indigenous Engagement Lead, as well as Indigenous Patient Navigators and Liaisons. They help Indigenous patients and their families in a number of ways including translation services, liaising with staff, and providing support before, during and after appointments.
Looking forward, the Health Sciences Centre’s Strategic Plan 2020 identifies initiatives to foster a more welcoming environment for Indigenous patients and their families by expanding cultural sensitivity training opportunities and recruiting more Indigenous staff, volunteers, and Patient Family Advisors. Additional objectives include improving the adoption of traditional knowledge and practices, as well as focusing on transitions for patients returning to remote First Nations Communities, so that we can improve their experiences and outcomes.