By Laura E. Young

SUDBURY – Having secured an education system reflective of its culture, the Anishinabek Nation is transforming the way it does health care, starting with a series of community meetings and engagement sessions this winter.

“Right now the political environment is positive for everything we’re doing. It’s time to hit the gas and let’s go with this.  We want to go with the momentum that the two levels of government have for us,” said Cathy Bellefeuille, health transformation consultant with the Anishinabek Nation, during the first session in Sudbury, January 31 and February 2.

If there is any change in government, the gains made will be positive and strong enough to continue the momentum, she said.

 “We’re actually behind in our time to do this. There are a lot of other health models coming up and running. The Anishinabek Nation has been connecting with the BC First Nation Health Authority and looking at a lot of the successes they’ve had there.”

There is no one model they are promoting, she said. There are six sample models in the information kit but the panel is open to hearing about other models, she said. “We want to keep what’s working in other communities.”

While the changes to education arrived after more than 20 years of discussions, the health system doesn’t have that luxury of time, she believes.

 “This is the moment of doing.”

She expects the team will return for another session in Sudbury, as attendance on the first day especially was sparse, with only three participants.

The engagement sessions are not the only way to have input. An online survey will be made available, and a mail out to see what people want for their health care system.  They expect to visit families and Elders in various centres.

This should give everyone the opportunity to identify the changes necessary to transform the system into one that properly reflects the First Nation’s way of life: that is diverse, culturally sensitive, appropriate and beneficial from pre-natal to end of life, she said.

“We want our communities that have programs already running to share those best practices. We want to be able to support them so we can look at a long-term plan to carry on for generations to come.”

After the regional consultations conclude, a fulltime, permanent staff will take on the task of visiting communities to help determine what the health system will look like.

“We’re not going to have one way of doing things,” Bellefeuille said.

“It’s going to be unique to whatever the community and regional needs are. We are going to see how that will work structurally. Financially, we have the opportunity to create that ourselves.”

Sessions will be held Feb 6-7 at the Munsee-Delaware Commu8nity Centre, Muncey, ON, Feb 8-9 at Geneva Park, Orillia, Feb 20-21, Garden River Community Centre in Garden River, March 7-8 in Ottawa and March 19-20 in Victoria Inn Hotel in Thunder Bay.  

To register or contact call 705-497-9127 or email Bellefeuille at cathy.bellefeuille@gmail.com or Priscilla Goulais, Anishinabek Nation Health Dept, goupri@anishinabek.ca