Whitecap Dakota First Nation residents will find it easier to look after their health-care needs thanks to the opening of a new primary health centre in the community.

The Whitecap Dakota First Nation Primary Health Centre opened in September 2012.

Whitecap was one of eight innovation sites across the province selected to test innovative approaches to primary health care though modeling a collaborative partnership between Whitecap Dakota and Saskatoon Health Region.

In May, the Ministry of Health announced $50,000 in funding for Saskatoon Health Region to go towards co-sharing a project coordinator to support the work at the Whitecap Dakota Primary Health Centre.

“We are pleased that Whitecap Dakota First Nation is testing a new approach to primary health care, to better serve the needs of patients,” Minister of Rural and Remote Health Randy Weekes said. “We hope this innovation site will inspire other First Nations communities in their effort to improve health care services for residents.”

The Province is investing $5.5 million in 2012-13 to test innovative models of primary health care service delivery and assist health regions to stabilize health services. The Centre also fits with Health Canada’s goal to improve health outcomes for First Nations across the country and Health Canada contributed $200,000 through its Health Services Integration Fund to support the opening of the new primary health centre.

“This project improves the integration of federal and provincial funded health services,” said the Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification on behalf of federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq. “The partnership among the Whitecap Dakota First Nation, the Saskatoon Regional Health Authority, the Ministry of Health, and the Government of Canada is another good example of how working together can improve First Nations access to health care.”

This project involves providing primary health care services on the Whitecap Dakota First Nation reserve with an emphasis on Chronic Disease Management (CDM) in a more appropriate cultural environment. There will be a focus on population health, education and disease prevention. Services will be more accessible and the community will have greater opportunity for collaboration and development of services that will meet their needs.

“Saskatoon Health Region has developed an Aboriginal Health Strategy specifically to help improve health outcomes for Metis people and First Nations, both off and on reserve,” says Jim Rhode, Saskatoon Regional Health Authority Chair. “This partnership allows us to take an important step to improve health services for this population in a patient first approach that makes best use of provincial and federal government resources.”

One role for the project coordinator will be to bring the appropriate stakeholders together to determine the needs of the community and to build a Primary Health/CDM service team to support the health of this First Nations community.

“This new partnership with Saskatoon Health Region, and the Governments of Saskatchewan and Canada is consistent with Whitecap’s approach to building alliances to enhance services and quality of life for the community and area,” said Whitecap Chief Darcy Bear. “Our vision includes innovations in how health care that bring providers together, so that the best care possible can be provided.”

A strong primary health-care system provides access to high quality care delivered by a team of health professionals that meets the needs of patients and families of all ages in any health-care setting. It is a holistic approach to health and recognizes that health is influenced by many factors outside the traditional health system. This new model of health care will serve as an example and learning site for others wanting to engage with First Nations communities in different ways.