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Training program for B.C. physicians supports First Nations health

For Immediate Release
Oct. 25, 2013

Ministry of Health
BC Medical Association
Provincial Health Services Authority

VICTORIA – The Government of British Columbia and BC Medical Association are providing access to an important training program that will allow rural physicians to deliver better care for First Nations and Aboriginal patients.

“The Indigenous Cultural Competency program is another example of our government working to support First Nations patients,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “This announcement follows the historic milestone of the transfer of all federal health programs and services for First Nations in B.C. to the First Nations Health Authority.”

Physicians will have access to an online training program which was developed by the Provincial Health Services Authority and is designed to increase knowledge and strengthen the skills of health-care providers who work both directly and indirectly with First Nations and Aboriginal Peoples.

“As a practising rural physician, I know first-hand that we can provide better care to Aboriginal patients and families when we truly understand their culture and traditions,” said Dr. William Cunningham, president of the BCMA and an ER physician in Cowichan. “This initiative is part of our commitment, as physicians, to provide British Columbians with the highest standard of health care.”

Facilitators guide and support participants through interactive learning modules that examine First Nations culture and history. The program can be viewed at:

“Cultural Competency of rural physicians who interact with First Nations and Aboriginal peoples is an essential component to offering more culturally appropriate and safe health services, leading to better health outcomes,” said Joe Gallagher, CEO of the First Nations Health Authority. “Through the Partnership Accords with each Regional Health Authority in the province, First Nations have the opportunity to build on the PHSA Cultural Competency training and enhance working partnerships with physician services.”

The Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues, a provincial government and BC Medical Association committee, which works to strengthen rural health care in B.C., is providing $100,000 in one-time funding to support physician access to training.

“An understanding of local Haida history and cultural influences has helped me be a better physician,” said Dr. Betty Calam, a physician who contributed to the program development. “For many in the Haida culture it is important to have many significant family and community members present in the hospital to pray and gather at the passing of an elder, or in the delivery room to witness and celebrate the birth of a baby. When insensitive or judgmental comments were made about these traditional ways, health-care relationships were damaged. Respecting Haida’s ways, and welcoming them as central to health care, built trust and improved local health care interactions.”

Physicians can apply for the training by visiting:

“Indigenous Cultural Competency participants learn about historical aspects like residential schools and Indian hospitals as well as context for understanding social inequities, with a goal of building strong communication and relationship skills,” said Leslie Varley, Aboriginal health director, Provincial Health Services Authority.

This October, the federal government transferred the planning, design, management, and delivery of First Nations health programs in B.C. to the new First Nations Health Authority, enabling the health authority to incorporate First Nations’ cultural knowledge, beliefs, values and models of healing into the design and delivery of health programs that better meet the needs of First Nations communities.

Media Contacts:

Ryan Jabs
Media Relations Manager
Ministry of Health
250 952-1887 (media line)

Sharon Shore
Senior Manager, Communications and Media Relations
BC Medical Association
604 638-2832
604 306-1866 (pager)
[email protected]

Lesley Pritchard
Media Relations Manager
Provincial Health Services Authority
[email protected]
604 675-7472
Media pager: 604 871-5699