Niagara Health: Emergency Department Assessment aims to improve quality of care for Indigenous patients

Press Release

Thursday, Dec. 8, Niagara Health is beginning an external assessment of the Emergency Department (ED) in an effort to improve patient care and experiences for Indigenous Peoples. The findings from the assessment of Niagara Health’s (NH) ED at the St. Catharines Site will be reviewed with the understanding that they will be applied across the three EDs and all NH sites.

The independent ED Assessment Panel is composed of five external leaders with a unique blend of expertise in emergency department and clinical operations, governance and management, employee engagement and patient care, and knowledge and practise of Indigenous culture and traditional healing. They include:

  • Panel Chair: Dr. Eric Letovsky, Chief of Emergency Medicine, Trillium Health Partners
  • Pat Mandy, Registered Nurse, Member of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation
  • Carolyn Farquharson, Director Urgent and Critical Care, Sinai Health
  • Dr. David Price, McMaster University Professor and Family Physician
  • Debra Jonathan, Registered Nurse, Turtle Clan, Cayuga Nation

We are grateful to Jill Shimizu-Wilson, who has guided this work in her role as an Indigenous Advisor at Niagara Health. Jill will continue to support the work of the Panel by leading the engagement with the Indigenous community to understand experiences and identify opportunities for improvement.

The independent ED Assessment follows the tragic death of Heather Winterstein, an Indigenous patient in our care in December 2021. This ED Assessment is done in Heather’s memory. As part of the assessment, the Panel will be seeking input from Indigenous patients and families, organizations, community services, and healthcare partners to understand experiences and assess opportunities for improvement. Niagara Health physicians and staff will also have the opportunity to share their perspectives and experiences with the Panel. The ED Assessment Panel will listen and examine all information collected and provide recommendations to Niagara Health to improve the care and experiences of patients, families and communities.

Niagara Health’s goal is to learn, offer healing, and mobilize change to improve the quality and safety of care for Indigenous patients. This is part of our commitment to make the hospital a safe and culturally welcoming space for Indigenous Peoples that meets their healthcare needs and respects their traditions.

Next steps

People can learn more about the Panel and the Assessment by visiting

The ED Assessment Panel invites members of the Indigenous community to share their experiences.

The Assessment will conclude in mid 2023 with a public report of findings and recommendations to help support a high-performing ED that provides quality care for Indigenous Peoples, extending sensitivity to their cultural needs.

You can also find more information on Indigenous Health Services and Reconciliation at Niagara Health here.


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