Residents of the K’atl’odeeche First Nation (KFN) will soon be able to receive medical services much closer to home thanks to the completion of a new facility on the Hay River Reserve.
Health and Social Services Minister Tom Beaulieu joined KFN Chief Roy Fabian and other dignitaries to officially open the Anne Buggins Wellness Centre on Thursday.
Once operational, the centre will utilize staff and resources from the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority (HRHSSA) to bring medical care closer to residents of the reserve.
Beaulieu said the purpose of the facility is to improve access to health services for people on the reserve by providing them closer to home.
“This is an important piece of infrastructure,” Beaulieu said in a speech to those in attendance for the opening. “We’re trying to provide services closer to the people.”
Fabian spoke about the sense of pride he felt at seeing the centre – nearly a decade in the making – finally completed. He called on the young people in his community to take advantage of the opportunity to grow up healthy.
“We really need something like this to help remind us how important (health and wellness) is, not only in terms of physical health but also in terms of spiritual, emotional and mental wellbeing,” he said.
Anne Buggins was a well-respected elder on the reserve who passed away in 2004. Fabian called her a spiritual leader and recounted how she encouraged those around her to live a healthy life.
“(She) always reminded us how important it is to maintain your spiritual well-being,” he said.
HRHSSA CEO Al Woods said the wellness centre provides an exciting opportunity for his organization to be able to provide better service to those on the reserve.
“This facility is going to give us the opportunity to provide those services out there,” Woods told The Journal. “If we can take the services to the clients, it’s much easier for the client.”
While the Hay River Reserve falls under the jurisdiction of the Deh Cho Health and Services Authority, residents typically avail themselves of the health services located in the town of Hay River.
Woods said despite the relative proximity of the reserve to the town, it can still be a burden for residents of the reserve to travel into town for appointments. Those who can’t drive are dependent on getting rides from friends or paying taxi fares. These challenges often lead to no-shows for scheduled appointments.
“There’s a lot of hardship for them,” he said.
Since most of those who would visit the new wellness centre are already clients of HRHSSA, Woods said using Hay River staff to operate the centre is a natural move.
“We’re able to do this because we’re doing it here already.”
The new wellness centre won’t mean new jobs within HRHSSA, Woods said, but will utilize existing staff on a rotational basis. Professionals in the public health, community counselling and social services departments will take turns staffing the facility.
“The cost to us will just be some minor transportation costs,” he added.
The facility is located next to the Chief Lamalice Recreation Complex on the reserve.
Also in attendance for the opening were Deh Cho MLA Michael Nadli, Health and Social Services deputy minister Sue Cullen and Jim Antoine, who serves as public administrator for Deh Cho Health and Social Services.