THUNDER BAY – HEALTH – Each month Andrée Robichaud, President and CEO of Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, is discussing what’s new at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC): the challenges and successes that impact the organization’s operations and patient care.
Q. What is TBRHSC celebrating in June?
We will have our Annual General Meeting (AGM) on June 26.
Also, this is the 5th year that the community of Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is coming together to celebrate National Aboriginal Day (June 21).
A week of celebrations at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre will include Opening Ceremonies and Drumming; displays of works by local artists; and lunch-hour learning opportunities with local elders.
National Aboriginal Day also provides an opportunity for us to reflect on our commitment to Aboriginal Health. Our strategic plan outlines our goals and in the past year we have made a lot of progress.
Q. What are your challenges?
Aboriginal people make up 19.2% of the population in our region. Those who live in remote communities face challenges in terms of accessing acute care and screening opportunities. We work very closely with our Aboriginal Advisory Committee and healthcare partners to address those challenges.
Through the use of technology, we are helping more people in remote communities access the care they need, without having to travel to Thunder Bay. This includes the use of tele-medicine – and we are a leader in this area.
Another initiative is the Screen for Life coach which travels to more than 60 different locations, including First Nation communities, throughout Northwestern Ontario. The coach offers breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening to eligible women in more convenient locations.
We have also partnered with Wequedong Lodge to offer screening to patients who are staying in Thunder Bay for other medical appointments.
Q. How does this impact patients?
Finding innovative ways to improve access to care means that patients and families can stay in their home communities which reduces stress and disruption. And because people don’t have to travel, health concerns, such as cancer, can be detected sooner. Early detection through screening can dramatically improve outcomes. Also, reaching patients where they live helps to establish relationships between them and our health sciences centre and healthcare providers.
Q. How will you proceed?
Although we can take advantage of tele-medicine in many instances, many patients and families still travel to Thunder Bay to access care at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.
Our journey towards excellence in Aboriginal Healthcare delivery begins with improving our physical and cultural environments to reflect the expressed values, practices and traditions of Aboriginal communities.
We are committed to doing more to establish an environment at TBRHSC that is more welcoming to Aboriginal patients and families. This includes Aboriginal artwork, traditional foods, and making the hospital easier to navigate for all patients.
This month we will be unveiling a traditional healing garden here on the TBRHSC campus that will include the Four sacred medicines: sage, cedar, tobacco and sweetgrass.
We are also establishing and developing cultural sensitivity and awareness at TBRHSC in order to better address the needs of Aboriginal patients and families.
Throughout the year we host various elders and traditional teachers from the community to offer staff and volunteers opportunities to learn about Aboriginal culture.
Many employees from throughout the organization also took advantage of the online learning modules now available for staff regarding Aboriginal culture, including topics such as feasts, gift-giving and sweat lodges.
Q. Can the community help?
We are committed to meaningful conversations and valuable partnerships that will result in improved care for Aboriginal patients and families in Northwestern Ontario.
I look forward to working with our committed volunteers, healthcare providers, staff and partners to fulfill the goals set out in our Strategic Plan 2015.
We want to be Healthy Together.
President and CEO of Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre