Province approves long-term care licenses for SRFN and Sagamok

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The long-term care license application process for Sagamok Anishnawabek First Nation and Serpent River First Nation (SRFN) has been approved by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. With permits in hand, First Nations can now begin the process of planning and eventually establishing a 16-bed long-term care facility in each community.

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The applications were submitted earlier this year by St. Joseph’s General Hospital in Elliot Lake. The hospital’s current board chair, Elaine Johnston, and the board were asked about their support for First Nations elders.

Johnston said, “I would look into locating long-term care in First Nations or reserving hospital beds.”

Following the initial discussion, hospital officials met with Sagamok First Nations and SRFN health directors to ask if they would like to work in partnership with the hospital. Both First Nations have agreed to the partnership.

A good partnership

“I thought it would be a good partnership because the hospital has experience,” Johnston said. Former SRFN chief Johnston said she had been pushing for long-term care in First Nations for years.

“In SRFN we have the home (Geka Wigwam) to have a long term care facility, you have to have 24 hour long term care. We have to meet the standards of the ministry to put it in the community.

She believes that having the facility in the community and having it close to home, family, etc. will improve the quality of care and the quality of life of the elderly people in care.

“Having them (elders) in our community, they stay connected to their family, their community and their language, so it’s a better quality of life. Many of our Elders die because they have no connection to their community.

“This is a positive move for reconciliation because it improves health care and quality of life for our elders and shows the collaboration and partnership between St. Joseph’s and First Nations,” Johnston said. “It’s a dream come true for me because I wanted this to happen and I’m so excited.”

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Meet required departmental standards

Once the long-term care facilities are operational, each of them located in the First Nations will be able to accommodate 16 people. The province has pledged to build 30,000 long-term care beds by 2028.

According to Johnston, “we have to meet the standards of the ministry to put it in the community.”

In an interview, Johnston explained the process that takes place between the department and First Nations.

“The way the ministry works is that it licenses beds in the province of Ontario; this means they must submit their application and you must ensure that you will be working within ministry guidelines for the process, so there must be a commitment that they will seek funding. They offer the possibility of building, so the hospital (Long Term Care License Application) was approved and the second was submitted for the First Nation. We have been told that the request for First Nations has been launched.

Additionally, she added, “The next step is to adhere to all ministry guidelines, (including) finance, architectural plans, construction, land purchase or land lease.”

In Johnston’s opinion, she said it could take up to five years before the facilities are operational.

First Nations leaders are pleased with the approval of the request

Sagamok Anishnawabek Chief Alan Ozawanimki said in a press release, “We have recognized the need for additional LTC beds and are pleased to hear that the government is helping us provide a full continuum of community support services located close enough that they can stay integrated with our people.”

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SRFN Ogimma Chief Brent Bissaillion said, “We strive to create high quality, high standard care for our seniors and carers. Today’s announcement is a commitment to ensure we provide the highest standard of care; and will be able to provide this care. I hope this will be a model of reconciliation for all of us as we move forward together in creating a better quality of life for our elders and grandparents.

St. Joseph’s General Hospital CEO Jeremy Stevenson noted that “developing these partnerships with long-term care homes is another important step in helping to reduce wait lists while providing our seniors the necessary care they deserve in their communities, close to their families. »

Existing elder care at SRFN and Sagamok

Currently, Sagamok and SRFN have facilities for the elderly that resemble long-term care homes. In Sagamok, seniors are housed at the Elders’ Eagle Lodge, which has 10 single rooms and 12 one-bedroom apartments for seniors in need of care. Elders in the Sagamok community receive personal support and general housekeeping at Eagles Lodge and in their homes.

SRFN provides elder care to seniors in their community as well as 24-hour support services that vary in duration depending on the needs of the individual. The main complex of SRFN is known as Geka Wigwam. Geka, as is the case at Eagles’ Lodge in Sagamok, provides services such as basic and advanced foot care, vital signs checks, communal meals, housekeeping, medication assistance , nursing and personal care.

There are several SRFN and Sagamok elders in long-term care outside of their communities in Espanola as well as Elliot Lake and Thessalon. When the new facilities are operational, seniors who live far from their home communities will have the opportunity to return to the community where they will be close to their culture, language, family and friends, which will improve their quality of life, according to Johnston.

Photo ProvidedCurrent Chair of the Board of Trustees of St. Joseph's General Hospital in Elliot Lake, Elaine Johnston, was instrumental in securing applications for long-term care licenses for SRFN facilities and by Sagamok.
Photo ProvidedCurrent Chair of the Board of Trustees of St. Joseph’s General Hospital in Elliot Lake, Elaine Johnston, was instrumental in securing applications for long-term care licenses for SRFN facilities and by Sagamok.

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Michael J. Chiaramonte