Province to Make Historic Investment in First Nations Health Care: Selinger

July 20, 2010

Island Lake Regional Health Consultations Set to Begin in September

Manitoba will begin community consultations with residents of Garden Hill, St. Theresa Point, Red Sucker Lake and Wasagamack First Nations this fall on plans to improve health services in the Island Lake region, Premier Greg Selinger announced today at the Assembly of First Nations annual general meeting in Winnipeg.“Today there are over 10,000 Manitobans living in the Island Lake region without local access to the health services taken for granted by most Canadians,” said Selinger. “This is not acceptable in any area of the province and today we are moving forward with a plan that will consult residents on the best way to bring new health services to the area.”

Consultations will focus on the addition of new health services to the region which could include birthing and maternal care, mental-health and addiction services, chronic disease management and rehabilitation services to help residents return home sooner as they recover from specialized procedures performed in Winnipeg.

Residents will be asked to consider different health-care delivery options including the traditional centralized model where all services are provided in one location or a health network model that has proved successful in other areas of the province with significant populations living in clusters within a wider geographic area. Under the network model, different communities would specialize in specific areas of health care with all communities having quick access to each service in neighbouring communities. Either model will soon be possible in the Island Lake region with an all-weather road currently being planned to connect the four Island Lake communities to each other and eventually the rest of the province, said Selinger.

“This commitment from the provincial government will go a long way toward improving health care in our communities,” said Chief David McDougall of the St. Theresa Point First Nation. “We are encouraged that the community consultations announced today will ensure the grassroots voices of each of the four Island Lake First Nations will be heard.”

The Island Lake region is located northeast of Lake Winnipeg near the Ontario border. With over 10,000 residents, which is projected to rise to 16,000 residents by 2025, it is the most populous region of the province without local major primary and acute health-care services and all-weather road access. Residents of the Island Lake region have among the poorest health outcomes in the province including the highest rate of diabetes, the highest rate of leg amputations among diabetic patients and the second-highest premature mortality rate (death under age 75). Over 200 women currently leave the region each year to give birth in Winnipeg, with several hundred specialist consultations and medevacs for urgent health needs.

Selinger said, since 1999, Manitoba has invested aggressively in First Nations health care both on and off reserve including:

· Canada’s first provincially funded on-reserve dialysis treatment centre at Garden Hill and Norway House, with plans for new dialysis units at Peguis and Berens River;
· a 16-seat Aboriginal nursing cohort ACCESS program at the University of Manitoba;
· a northern family-medicine residence program designed to recruit and retain family doctors in northern Manitoba;
· scholarships for Aboriginal medical students to support them in their undergraduate years in exchange for a return of service agreement;
· a new primary-care facility at Pine Falls that will incorporate traditional Aboriginal healing practices and modern medicine; and
· Winnipeg’s first personal-care home for Aboriginal elders to help them age with dignity in an environment that respects traditional approaches to aging.

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