Multi-million dollar investment aimed at improving health care for First Nations elders

By on November 14, 2017
Veterans and First Nations elders gathered at a Remembrance Day ceremony in Lower NIcola. (Photo courtesy of Time f/Stopped Photography).

Interior Health (IH) is planning to make a multi-million dollar investment into improving outreach care across seven Interior Nations after a report revealed that First Nations elders are less likely to visit physicians and more likely to be checked into the emergency department.

Starting in 2019, the regional health authority will direct $10 million over five years, adding 20 full time equivalent (FTE) nursing positions across the Interior. With a host of new nurses working in the Interior, IH aims to bring preventative health care services to elders within their own communities.

What we want to eliminate is actually having our elders having to come into Williams Lake, Kamloops or Kelowna for services.” said Anderson. “Really it’s about being effective in ensuring our services are being brought closer to home — within the homes of our elders.”

A 2016 report from the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) which examined the rate of chronic conditions and service utilization by the Interior First Nations population found that in comparison to other residents, First Nations elders were less likely to visit physicians, despite having higher rates of many chronic conditions. What is more, the report found that elders were more likely to visit the emergency department — which suggests that a lack of preventative care may be due to issues with access to primary health care services in the region.

“We want to do that preventative work, [and] have our nurses out in the community,” said Anderson.

The multi-million dollar investment will see 4.8 FTE nurse positions created specifically to service the communities within the Nlaka’pamux Nation, he added.

Alongside the ongoing funding provided by IH, the First Nations Health Authority will receive a one time grant of $1 million, a year prior to the start of the ongoing funding from IH, in order to start preparing communities for the influx of new nurses. The goal is to allow communities and nations to decide the best method to deliver outreach care to elders in a culturally safe way.

“We do recognize that each of the Interior Nations in the region is unique — so their needs around elder care would be uniquely placed in the health care system,” said Mary McCullough, regional manager for the Interior with FNHA.

“It’s about building those relationships, understanding our clients and understanding the needs,” said Anderson.

Seven different nations are included in the Interior region, comprising 54 different First Nations communities. There are approximately 4,450 elders in the region.

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