Indigenous-focused primary care team seeks clinic in Waterloo region
The Southwestern Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Center (SOAHAC) is interested in establishing an Aboriginal-focused primary care team in the Waterloo region.
SOAHAC is one of 10 Indigenous Health Care Access Centers in the province: health care organizations that offer a mix of traditional healing, health promotion and primary care programs.
The center has opened a new location in Cambridge, Ontario. earlier this year and requested provincial funding to hire more than a dozen additional staff – including two doctors and a nurse practitioner – to work in the space.
Already, the agency has said it is responding to calls from people in the indigenous community who want to know when primary care will arrive. Jan Martin said she hopes to give them an answer soon.
“Aboriginal people have high rates of chronic diseases that go untreated, and without a primary care provider, that only perpetuates the problem,” said Martin, director of Aboriginal relations at SOAHAC.
In its application for funding, SOAHAC estimates that it would serve approximately 6,267 Aboriginal patients in the Waterloo region, based on projections from the London Community Research.
Bangishimo, an organizer of Land Back Camp, told CBC KW that “most” of the Natives they know do not have a family doctor or nurse practitioner and are often suspicious of those they visit. because of racism in the health sector.
“On social media you always see us constantly asking, for example, ‘Who is a massage therapist that I can go to, who is a nice dentist, who is a nice doctor?'” Said Bangishimo, who uses their pronouns. .
“Because we have to constantly ask ourselves if we are going to be racialized in these spaces.”
“Critical need” for Indigenous-led services
The plan has the support of Bruce Lauckner, Executive Director of the Region of Waterloo, who previously worked for Ontario Health.
In July, Lauckner wrote to the province in support of SOAHAC’s proposal. He said there is a “critical need” for Aboriginal-led services in the Waterloo region.
“To address inequalities in the community and take concrete steps towards reconciliation, we cannot do it alone and we are happy to see SOAHAC accompanying us,” wrote Lauckner, who highlighted the role of the center in bringing in place of a culturally safe space in Cambridge. Pinebush COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic.
“We have been incredibly lucky to have a successful deployment to local members of Indigenous communities. “Lauckner wrote.
Dave Remy, director of client care at SOAHAC, believes that the level of participation in the immunization clinic indicates the need for more Aboriginal-centered care in the region.
Ensuring that more people have access to a family doctor or nurse practitioner would also reduce the pressure on other parts of the health system, he said.
“If you want to decongest your hospitals, if you want to make sure that people are healthy, then you have to invest in primary care,” he said.
In response to questions from CBC KW, a spokesperson for the Department of Health said he could not say when the department might make a decision on SOAHAC’s request.
“Unsolicited proposals are reviewed on an ongoing basis and, subject to available funds, may be recommended for approval,” the statement said.
Rémy hopes to get the official green light soon.
“We have the office, we have the infrastructure, we have the location – we are ready to go,” he said.