During a brief but productive visit on Monday, December 4, Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services Dr. Gaétan Barrette and MNA for Ungava Jean Boucher, attended lunch at the Mistissini Elders' Home and toured the Mistissini Community Miyupimaatisiiuun Centre (CMC). They were accompanied by Bella M. Petawabano, Chairperson, Daniel St-Amour, Executive Director.
The visit began with a lunch of traditional food hosted by the Mistissini Elders’ Home. Ashley Iserhoff, Director of Health and Social Development for the Cree Nation of Mistissini, discussed ways in which community partners work together in Mistissini, and Paul Linton, CBHSSJB Assistant Director of Public Health, who is a member of the Board of the Elders’ Home, distributed copies of the book The Sweet Bloods of Eeyou Istchee: Stories of Diabetes and the James Bay Cree.
The Quebec government representatives visited the CMC in a guided tour led by Dr. Rosy Khurana, Paul Iserhoff, Martin Nyles and Dr. Carole Laforest. The Minister and Mr. Boucher spoke with department heads and other staff about the services they offer and their perspectives on health and social services in the Cree communities. The Minister saw the very busy dialysis clinic and spoke to professionals about the diabetes crisis facing our communities. In addition to dialysis, Mistissini CMC now offers diagnostic services like laboratory (for blood tests), retinopathy screening, and medical imaging (x-rays). These services are part of an overall strategy to reduce the need to send patients outside the community. Dr. Barrette is a radiology specialist and talked shop with the medical imaging team.
‘What is impressive here is to see the involvement of all the community in taking care of their people and the collaboration that I can see with people coming from the south,’ said Dr. Barrette at the end of his visit. ‘Basically this is how the healthcare system should work in this province. So in many many ways you are a guiding light to us. It was quite impressive to see what I’ve seen today.’ The Mistissini Elders’ Home can accommodate ‘semi-autonomous’ Elders, but it does not offer all the support of a CHSLD. The Cree Health Board is working with the Cree communities to find solutions to enable our Elders to stay in their communities, close to family and with Cree speaking caregivers, even as their needs become more complex.
Speaking of his visit to the Elders’ Home, the Minister said, ‘What I saw is very good care provided to elders. That was obvious to me: the quality of the infrastructure and the people working there. But at the same time, it is clear that to me that the needs in the near and mid-term future are quite significant. No matter whether you are living in the southern or the northern part of Quebec, we are facing the same issues, but in a different context. The context for First Nations, for the Cree community, needs to be taken into account. So to me, it was quite interesting to see that there is a will in this community to take care of their seniors in all situations, and I’m sure that this is something that we can collaborate on with the Cree community in order to take care of that.’
The visit to Mistissini followed an earlier event at the Centre régional de santé et de services sociaux de la Baie James, where renovations to the surgery of Chibougamau Hospital were announced.