People in Williams Lake receive improved access to First-Nations-led primary care

Press Release

Nov. 4, 2022

WILLIAMS LAKE – First Nations people living in Williams Lake and the surrounding communities of the Dakelh Dene, Tŝilhqot’in and Secwepemc Nations have access to culturally safe primary care with the opening of a new First Nations Wellness Centre (FNWC) on Oct. 11, 2022, at 281 1st Ave. North.

“The First Nations Wellness Centre in Williams Lake marks an important step forward in creating lasting equity in our health-care system and reconciliation in our province,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “The guidance from our Indigenous partners is crucial in our delivery of all social services, especially in health. I look forward to seeing the success of this centre and how it will inform future collaborations.”

The FNWC in Williams Lake is part of the Central Interior Rural Primary Care Network. Several more centres are being planned throughout B.C. as part of the Province’s primary care strategy.

The FNWC is a model of First Nations primary health-care service delivery, combining primary health care, social services and Indigenous health supports in one team-based care model. It will eventually have 16 full-time equivalent (FTE) clinical staff that will include primary care providers, Traditional Wellness Healers and allied health practitioners, and 19 FTE staff overall, including administration support, leadership and clinical services. The centre will prioritize hiring based on the priorities identified by the Nations during extensive engagement sessions over three years.

“This is the second of 15 First-Nations-led wellness centres in B.C. and the first in a rural and remote context supported by the Ministry of Health and the First Nations Health Authority,” said Richard Jock, CEO, First Nations Health Authority (FNHA). “It will improve access to health-care and wellness services that are culturally safe and based on the practices, ceremonies and beliefs of the Nations themselves.”

The centre in Williams Lake will be operated by FNHA with the advice and guidance of representatives from the Dakelh Dene, Tŝilhqot’in and Secwepemc Nations.

“Reconciliation is not something we can achieve as a government, province or country without the guidance and collaboration of our First Nations partners. This principle must be upheld at every level, especially in health care,” said Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “The First Nations Wellness Centre in Williams Lake will provide culturally safe care so Indigenous people can access the services they need.”

FNHA has existing partnerships with Indigenous primary health-care centres in Interior Health and throughout the province. FNHA will continue to engage with its partners, including First Nations, the Ministry of Health and Interior Health, to support the provision of culturally safe care for Indigenous people in the region.

The clinic aligns with the Ministry of Health’s commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to deliver services that are First-Nations-led and informed by traditional wellness values and by the lived experiences of Indigenous people.

This announcement builds on the Ministry of Health’s and FNHA’s 2019 partnership to provide ongoing funding to the Lu’ma Medical Centre in Vancouver to expand Indigenous primary care services.

Learn More:

To learn about Lu’ma Medical Centre, B.C.’s first First Nations primary care centre, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2019HLTH0129-001783

To learn about actions underway for the 24 recommendations from In Plain Sight, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2021HLTH0075-002294

A backgrounder follows.

Contacts:

Ministry of Health
Communications
250 952-1887 (media line)

First Nations Health Authority
Communications
778 689-7541 (media line)

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BACKGROUNDER

What people are saying about the Williams Lake First Nations Wellness Centre

Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chair, Tŝilhqot’in National Government –

“It’s long overdue for a wellness centre like this in Williams Lake. Having a place that our people can go that provides different levels of support in culturally sensitive ways will be hugely beneficial. Health care is one of the best things you can provide to improve health outcomes for rural and remote areas. We are proud to say that this is the first of its kind in B.C. A Nation is strong but when many Nations work together, we are even stronger. This is also a celebration in three Nations working together.”

Sheri Sellars, Chief, Xatśūll First Nation –

“This new centre holds a different aspiration – health and wellness practices that are rooted in our traditional knowledge. This approach goes back to the land, integrating traditional ways of life into healing. This is important as it helps to mitigate the impacts of colonization and help us to return to our holistic and traditional healing practices.”

Zach Parker, representative, Dakelh Dene Nation; executive, Interior Region Nation –

“We are excited to have a multi-Nation health-care centre that will serve our people’s needs in a culturally safe way. This inclusive space is an opportunity to demonstrate leadership in health care, and we hope that it can empower and uphold Indigenous people.”

Lisa Montgomery-Reid, vice-president, regional operations, Interior Region Nation –

“This is an opportunity to do things differently and to provide primary care services with culture, ceremony and practices as a foundation to care. It is a place where First Nations people living in and around Williams Lake will feel welcomed and safe to access health services. It could not have been achieved without the support of the Dakelh Dene, Secwepemc and Tŝilhqot’in Nations, and we acknowledge the ongoing support and guidance provided by the leadership in the planning and development of the First Nations Wellness Centre.”

Michael Sandler, CEO, Association of Nurses and Nurse Practitioners of BC –

“Nurses and nurse practitioners of B.C. are pleased to see that the knowledge, skills and expertise of the entire health-care team will be utilized to improve access to health care for all British Columbians through First Nations wellness centres. We believe that this approach will be pivotal in ensuring B.C. families can access health-care services, and we are excited to see the opening of one in Williams Lake.”

Contacts:

Ministry of Health
Communications
250 952-1887 (media line)

First Nations Health Authority
Communications
778 689-7541 (media line)

Connect with the Province of B.C. at: news.gov.bc.ca/connect

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