The community of Fort Providence celebrated the opening of a new Health and Social Services centre last week, where residents hope modern health practices and traditional healing methods will be used hand in hand.
Local leaders, residents and health officials gathered at the new facility on June 15 to cut the ribbon on the new $9.7-million facility.
For the first time in the community, both health and social services will be housed in the same facility.
Included in the new health centre is an upper-floor residence for visiting doctors and nurses.
The centre itself is expected to employ around 20 staff members.
At the request of the local Deh Gah Gotie Dene First Nation, the centre also hosts a morgue in the basement, a service that was unavailable in the community until now.
The facility replaces Fort Providence’s former health centre, which is over 40 years old. The new building is about 1,085 square metres, about a third bigger than the previous building.
“It did its job, but it was getting too old and expensive to operate,” Deh Gah Gotie Chief Joachim Bonnetrouge said of the previous facility.
“Patient care is in high demand; there’s so much happening in our community,” Bonnetrouge said, noting the high traffic in the area from travelers, morel mushroom pickers and the community’s aging population.
New vision for an updated facility
To compliment the new services and staff at the facility, Bonnetrouge is asking all staff from outside the region receive cultural sensitivity training.
“As part of the opening, I had to make a remark and I said it would be wonderful – we all welcome people coming to work for us and work in the community – but I think they should have more cultural sensitivity programs or workshops,” Bonnetrouge said. “It’s gotta be mandatory because a lot of these people come from Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Providence is basically a First Nations community, there are certain things that we do here and those workers need to know.”
Bonnetrouge said he would be happy to provide the training from the community, but Health and Social Services Minister Glen Abernethy has stated a territorial cultural sensitivity training system is in development.
“We’re quite willing to provide that and basically the elders are the ones that teach those things – culture stuff, protocols, certain things that we need to do,” Bonnetrouge said. “Especially in care giving, there are a lot of sensitive areas that people need to learn about, so that’s what we’re suggesting.”