On October 7, nearly 200 Saskatoon Health Region staff, community partners and patients gathered at Saskatoon Inn for the Aboriginal Health Summit. The summit provided an opportunity for participants to review how far the Region has come since the 2010 Aboriginal Health Strategy was implemented. The strategy sets out a plan aimed at improving health outcomes and care experiences for First Nations and Métis people within Saskatoon Health Region.

“The Aboriginal Health Summit provides us with the opportunity to ensure that the services and approaches throughout the Region are sensitive to culture,” Dan Florizone, President and CEO of Saskatoon Health Region, said at the summit. “We want to make sure that each and every day all of our patients, including First Nations and Métis people, can say with confidence, ‘I felt welcome. I felt cared for. That place was like home.’ Together, we’ll work toward this aim.”

Participants were pleased with the opportunity the summit gave them to review the strategy and share their experiences.

“Yesterday, I had the opportunity to be in the birthing area at Royal University Hospital,” said Shirley Isbister, President of the Central Urban Métis Federation (CUMFI). “My husband and I are the proud grandparents of a baby girl, and I want to tell you that our daughter and her husband had the most excellent treatment. The staff was welcoming, and I thought this is how it should be in every unit in every hospital, so that you feel good about being here.”

At 2:30 a.m., a short time after her granddaughter was born, Shirley received a frantic call from her daughter, saying the baby’s blood sugar levels had dropped, and her baby had been taken away. Shirley’s daughter later learned that her baby had been taken to the neonatal unit for treatment.

“That’s one of the challenges in our community,” Shirley said. “If nurses and doctors make decisions, and they don’t sit down and explain them, our young girls will carry on without knowing. If there’s a language barrier, it makes it even worse, and then people sit there and guess. To be able to have this Aboriginal Health Summit is something we’ve needed for years, so I commend the Health Region for working so hard on it and presenting it so well.”

Dory Cook, a patient advisor on the Aboriginal Patient Advisory Council, who also spoke at the summit, said she is appreciative of the service provided to her by First Nations and Métis Health when she was hospitalized in 2013.

Dory Cook, Patient Advisor

Dory Cook, Patient Advisor

“I wasn’t aware that this service even existed before I went through the doors of the Health Region,” Cook noted. “I’m thankful for that experience, because I looked into all the services that were available, and I utilized those services. I’m now an advisory council member, and I’ve learned so much. The more I learn, the more I can give back and can help my community. I think I was supposed to go through the doors of the Health Region, that was part of my journey, and I will continue to work as hard as I can.”

Both Elders and youth were also present at the summit.

“We know the foundation for good living comes from the practicing of our traditional spirituality, things like smudging, sweat lodges and ceremonial practices,” said Elder Walter Linklater. “I would like to recommend that traditional Elders be invited to workshops with staff in the health system to learn the traditional ways of our people. It’s not to try to convert anyone to our ways; it’s just for a better understanding.”

Emily Bear with Elders Walter and Maria Linklater

Emily Bear with Elders Walter and Maria Linklater

“It’s good for the upcoming generation to see what services are out there or what’s lacking, especially for students who are training to become helpers,” said Emily Bear, a student with the Community Addictions Program at the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology. “Having conferences like these gives us tools in our kit to help other people help themselves.”

The First Nations and Metis Health Team

First Nations and Métis Health team (back row, from left): Sharon Clarke, Juanita Graham, Rosanne Glass, Julie Haubrich, Delia Allberg, Sandy Naccarato, Gabe Lafond. Front row: Phoebe Fosseneuve, Hermaline Bear, Jade Chaboyer, Val Bradfield; (missing from photo: Gilbert Kewistep and Judy Pelly)