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Funding approved to build health care facility at Keeseekoose

With funding now confirmed, the Saulteaux Pelly Agency Health Alliance’s $30 million proposal to construct a multipurpose health facility at Keeseekoose First Nation can now move forward to the tendering phase, said a release from Indigenous Services Canada.

KEESEEKOOSE FIRST NATION — Construction of a new 23-bed health care facility is to begin at Keeseekoose First Nation in April.

With funding now confirmed, the Saulteaux Pelly Agency Health Alliance’s $30 million proposal to construct a multipurpose health facility can now move forward to the tendering phase, said a release from Indigenous Services Canada. In a recent meeting with The Key, Keeseekoose, and Cote First Nations leaders, Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services, shared the good news. 

“The Saulteaux Pelly Agency Health Alliance’s (SPAHA) goal with this project is to integrate the delivery of health services for three Saskatchewan communities while closing the infrastructure gap in Indigenous health care,” said the release. The SPAHA is comprised of The Key First Nation, Keeseekoose First Nation, and Cote First Nation.

When the health facility is completed, community members will have access to an extensive suite of services in a culturally relevant environment, including primary health care, mental health programs and services, long-term care, palliative care, and child and family services, it said. In addition, the facility will grant community access to the Keeseekoose First Nation public health space. 

Construction on the project is expected to begin before April 1, 2023, and to be completed approximately 15 to 24 months later, it said. The facility will provide more than 4,000 square metres of space and will be located on Keeseekoose First Nation.  

“This new multipurpose health project is the result of years of advocacy by leaders and community members in The Key, Keeseekoose, and Cote First Nations,” said Patty Hajdu, “Through their collaboration with the Saulteaux Pelly Agency Health Alliance, this facility will provide a wide range of health services that are culturally sensitive and First Nations-led. This will help close gaps in care and benefit the entire region.”

“The agreement by Indigenous Services Canada to fund the capital and the negotiations with the Saskatchewan provincial government to fund part of the operations are great examples of reconciliation in action and demonstrate ISC’s and the province’s commitment to working with Indigenous partners to close First Nations health infrastructure gaps,” said Theodore Quewezance of Keeseekoose, CEO of SPAHA.

“Our vision given to us from our Elders and community members and prayers have come to fruition,” said Cote First Nation Chief George Cote, chair of SPAHA. “We will be given an opportunity to provide the care, whether it be traditional or western methods, to serve our Nations.

“It has been a long process, but the work we have done on this multi-purpose building, with the blessing of Canada, will be a way to heal together from past traumas to make the next generations healthier Nations amongst Cote First Nation, Keeseekoose First Nation, and The Key First Nation,” Cote said. “This is our time to be moving forward in truth and reconciliation with the fulfilment of our Treaty right to health care.

“We are thankful to Canada for this great moment in history as we come together in unity.” 

“The announcement of this significant milestone for our new multi-use health care facility is really great news,” said Chief Lee Ketchemonia of Keeseekoose First Nation. “Our members from the three First Nations communities will benefit from this project greatly.

“Securing primary health care for our members has always been the end goal, and we are extremely excited to be one step closer to achieving this goal,” Ketchemonia said. “We have had so many leaders that dedicated many years of service to make this dream come true for our communities.

“This multi-use health care facility will stand as a symbol for independence, healing, health and well-being,” he said. “Our people will benefit for many years to come.”

The goals of the facility are to improve access to various programs and services to members; improve the well-being of all communities involved; and to enhance Indigenous control over the delivery of services, the release said. The health facility will serve a combination of over 2,500 on-reserve and over 8,500 off-reserve members throughout the three communities.

The project has capital funding for 18 continuing care beds for patients with long-term health problems; two palliative care beds, and three transitional beds for patients awaiting release plans, said Chris Lafontaine of Regina, the project manager, who said he has spent about nine years in the community.

The building will also contain a suite of four offices for doctors, facilities for Telemedicine assistance, a pharmacy, a suite for Indigenous Child and Family Services; a mental health area where Elders will be utilized for assistance, and space to incorporate the Keeseekoose Health Clinic, Lafontaine said, adding that he expects the building will be completed in about two years.

“We’ve been discussing such a project for many years,” said Theodore Quewezance. “We’ve had so many deaths; six funerals this week.”

Explaining that the facility will also include an ambulance bay within the hospital, Quewezance said that the project is an example of the three communities putting their minds together to work for the community.

“It’s a positive sign for the communities, but it will need a lot of work,” he said, adding that the group is working with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, the MLA and the minister of health.

Asked how it is planned to staff a new facility when staffing concerns forced the closure of the nearby Kamsack Hospital this summer, Quewezance said the provincial health service cannot be depended on and is “currently designed to fail.”

The biggest problem with SHA is the toxic environment where people are working, he said. Employees are expected to work more for less. The system is designed by policy makers that don’t want it to work.

“We’re trying to solve health problems,” Lafontaine said. “The health system is not working for First Nations people nor for non-First Nations people.”

Lafontaine said there exists an opportunity for people to talk.

“We are interested in making things better, but it will take an attitude change,” he said.

As it now is, politicians are running the health system, but politics don’t work in health care, Quewezance said.

“The system is not broken, as some people may say, rather it is working the way it was designed,” Lafontaine said. “We have to look at changing the design of the system.”

“There is money for health care, but the provinces don’t want to be accountable,” Quewezance said.

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