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Enhancing Healthcare Services: Interlake Eastern Regional Health Authority’s Dedication in Peguis First Nation

By James Wastasecoot – Although funded almost entirely by the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB), Peguis First Nation Health Centre must integrate health care delivery with a wide array of other providers including the Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority (IERHA). “At present, we collaborate with IERHA on cancer care and Child Wellness,” said Nurse in Charge Denise Bear. “We are looking forward to resuming our child wellness activities now that COVID is past us.” IERHA is a culturally diverse organization with Indigenous peoples comprising 27% of the region’s residents including 17 First Nations. IERHA is aware that cultural differences and other divides can lead to differential treatment in patient groups, a practice most organizations realize is not accept-able. It has worked hard to forge strong partnerships in delivering comprehensive healthcare to the residents of Peguis and other First Nations in a manner that respects their culture and fosters a positive healing environment. When Annette McCorrister, Nurse Bear’s mother became sick last year, the diagnosis was cancer. “The children were my go-between in my conversations with the health care professionals,” said McCorrister. “They were most hurt by the news. When they came here to tell me, it was hard for them, and they broke down crying.” When a person is diagnosed with cancer, the impact can be confusing and overwhelming. Cancer-related treatment programs, health care professionals and facilities are numerous, and information is key to make sure patients don’t get lost or lose confidence in the system. This is why IERHA and other organizations have set up Cancer Navigation Services consisting of nurses, community liaison coordinator, and an oncology social worker to help cancer patients fully understand how their needs are going to be treated before and after treatment. “When I had to talk to the nurses, my daughter was usually here with me,” said McCorrister. “When the time came to talk about treatment, we had the doctor on speakerphone. I told them that I didn’t want chemotherapy. I saw what that did to my sister. I chose to have surgery.” McCorrister said the surgery went well but it left her with pain, but within a couple of weeks she was up and getting around. “The doctor told me I was cancer-free and I still am,” she beamed. Among other changes she’s made in her lifestyle is exercise. McCorrister is out on the road most mornings and evenings walking. “I feel really good walking and look forward to it.” The cancer care team of professionals are out in Peguis making a diff erence in cancer care and continuing to build their relations with Peguis Health Care Centre and patients. “They treated me with respect, they were nice,” said McCorrister. “And you must have faith in God, I knew, God is with me.” IERHA is continuing to strengthen relationships with the First Nation communities in the region. Presently, the organization is running ads seeking more Indigenous voices on its Indigenous Health Care Committees. Details can be viewed at www.ierha.ca/communityinvolvement/indigenoushealth .

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