New Health Governance Workbook unveiled at Island Caucus meeting

Nanaimo – Chiefs, Health Directors, community members, First Nations Health Council (FNHC) and interim First Nations Health Authority (iFNHA) staff were on hand for the Vancouver Island regional caucus session in Nanaimo February 1-2. The event had an air of optimism but was marked by a somber mood for many following the recent passing of some community members in unrelated events from around the island region.

A number of topics and discussions took place but the main focus of the session was the launch of the new ‘Navigating the Currents of Change: Managing the Transition to a New First Nations Health Governance Structure’ workbook that allows for input on the next steps to be taken and future makeup of a permanent First Nations Health Authority in BC. The focus of the workbook looks at transition strategy and how to best manage the coming structural change that will lead into a functional and effective First Nations health governance organization.Questions in the workbook include input on opportunities and challenges related to regional representation, and the determination of a permanent First Nations Health Authority as a corporate, non-profit, legislated or hybrid model. The workbook was accompanied by a DVD video and guidebook with information related to the decision and important examples of options available to BC First Nations while maintaining a mandate related to the seven directives previously established from the Gathering Wisdom IV Consensus Paper.

“I think we need aspects of every one of those options in terms of how we want to structure ourselves. For example, we need legislated protection for accountability to our citizens. I think the only way we can guarantee protection is through legislation, but the problem with legislation is the lack of flexibility.

“We need flexibility for our communities, that’s the primary reason were taking this over so we can adapt it to our circumstances right throughout the province,” said Rob Naknakim, Chief Negotiator with the Lach Kwil Tach Treaty Society. “I think we’re doing great work but we’re in transition and once we decide to put the permanent structure in place, all the talk is over and were into the action of carrying out the services and we have to live with it.”

Reaction to the workbook was positive with many approaching the plan understanding its importance. Representatives wanted to continue educating themselves on models of operation to ensure they make the right decision the first time for the future of their people. “I would just like to ensure that we get all the information we need to work on this,” said Sally Williams, Health Director with the Gwawaenuk First Nation.
“We need to ensure all the documents we need to see come to us so there’s improved communication and that we can network together and ask each other questions.”

Other topics covered in the caucus session included Regional Tables, Partnership Accords, the Regional Health and Wellness Plan, an update from First Nations Child and Family Wellness Council and the Indigenous Child at the Centre Program, as well as the discussion of pressing issues like health service delivery and the relationship between RCMP and First Nations.

Many community representatives offered input, advice and concerns with issues affecting their communities. The event and opportunities for the further development of First Nations health care in BC was put in perspective by FNHC Chair Grand Chief Doug Kelly during the second day.

“We have been working very diligently since May where we gathered in Richmond. You, your colleagues and leaders gathered together, you reviewed information, listened to a number of presenters and you decided to accept the offer that was made by Health Canada to take the Pacific Region office of the First Nations Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB) from Health Canada control and put it under our control. You also gave us direction to establish Regional Tables, with these we create a table where your leadership can meet the decision makers with the Vancouver Island Health Authority and that you will jointly make decisions on your priorities, on your plans to serve your communities and citizens regardless of where they live. You will be able to influence their budgets, their programs and their services,” he said. “It’s a significant opportunity where we have a chance to transform the way health care is delivered to our communities. You evaluate progress, measure results and get to give direction if things aren’t going as well as we hope. This workbook is the next step in getting your ideas and your input on what direction we should move next in our progress towards becoming the official First Nations Health Authority.”

Grand Chief Kelly also noted how all Nations in the province need to continue to work collaboratively and that First Nations health care in BC is moving in the right direction.

The workbooks will be delivered to caucus sessions in all five provincial regions with the results summarized into regional papers that will then be used to help build consensus among BC First Nations leading into Gathering Wisdom V in May 2012. A Consensus Paper will be developed that describes a collective agreement and the direction BC First Nations will take for the coming transformation into a permanent First Nations Health Authority.

“There have been a lot of questions as to what the future will look like for First Nations health in the province and many of our decision makers want to know how to offer their input into the process,” said Shana Manson, Coast Salish representative from the FNHC Vancouver Island region.

“This workbook will be the blueprint that takes in all the feedback and creates a document reflecting the ideas that Chiefs will then vote on, deciding our approach for future First Nations health governance. This is it.”

Other caucus sessions will take place in the North and Vancouver Coastal regions on February 15-16, Fraser on March 15 and in the Interior March 22-23.

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