Today, on the occasion of the 6th annual National Aboriginal Day celebrations at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC), representatives from the federal Department of Canadian Heritage were in attendance. Canadian Heritage has provided funding support for these celebrations at TBRHSC for the past five years.
“Our mission at Canadian Heritage is to promote an environment in which all Canadians take full advantage of dynamic cultural experiences, celebrating our history and heritage, and participating in building creative communities,” said Steve Khan, Program Officer with the Department of Canadian Heritage. “Today’s celebration is a perfect example of that mission in action.”
The event opened with a prayer and smudge ceremony led by Brenda Mason, an Anishinabe Cultural and Spiritual Services Worker with St. Joseph’s Care Group Member and one of 25 volunteer members of the TBRHSC Aboriginal Advisory Committee. These individuals help guide TBRHSC’s actions and decisions that will result in improved care for Aboriginal patients and families in Northwestern Ontario.
Mason also spoke about her experience serving on the Committee and the changes she has seen at the hospital over the past five years. “I’m encouraged that the hospital hired an Aboriginal Engagement Lead and five Aboriginal Patient Navigators,” she said.
“I hope the Aboriginal Advisory Committee is helping to bring about change, even a little, to increase cultural awareness and respect. We don’t have to believe what the other believes, only to respect, so that we make the Health
Sciences Centre a good place for our people to go to, so they’re not afraid.”
Some of the initiatives to improve the delivery of health care to Aboriginal patients and their families include hiring an Aboriginal Engagement Lead; and five Aboriginal Patient Navigators in Child and Adolescent Mental Health; the Centre for Complex Diabetes Care; Renal Services; Cancer Care; and the Emergency Department.
TBRHSC has also provided numerous different cultural sensitivity training opportunities for staff.
Although not mandatory, an impressive number of employees took advantage of these opportunities, an encouraging indicator of the organization’s commitment to providing culturally safe care.
“Looking forward, we hope to continue to create a more welcoming environment for Aboriginal patients and families, by expanding cultural sensitivity training opportunities and recruiting more Aboriginal staff, volunteers, and Patient Family Advisors,” said Chisholm Pothier, Vice-President, Communications and Engagement, Aboriginal Affairs and Government Relations. “I look forward to working with our committed volunteers, health care providers, staff, and partners to fulfill our goals.”
Aboriginal Health is one of TBRHSC’s four strategic directions. One of the ways TBRHSC is working to establish a more welcoming environment for Aboriginal patients and families is by displaying Aboriginal artwork and stories throughout the facility. Last year saw the donation of Tonto, a triptych by local artist Cree Stevens, to Regional Cancer Care North West.
Thanks to generous donors in Northwestern Ontario, the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation works very closely with the team at the Health Sciences Centre to provide funding for identified priorities, such as Aboriginal Health.
Most recently, the Foundation, along with the Volunteer Association, through the Family CARE grant program, contributed to the pictogram way finding signage that has been installed throughout the facility. These signs use a graphic representation of services to help patients whose first language isn’t English to find their way.
“I know the Health Sciences Foundation will continue to work closely with the Health Sciences Centre as the 2020 Strategic Plan is unveiled to provide further support for Aboriginal Health,” said Kevin Holloway, Board Director, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation.
Today’s event was followed by a performance by the Pipe Stone Drumming Group.
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