On April 5, 2013, Québec Minister of Health and Social Services Dr. Réjean Hébert, Véronique Hivon, the Minister for Social Services and Youth Protection, Élizabeth Larouche, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Luc Ferland, provincial MNA for Ungava, were among the guests for the inauguration of a new $29 million dollar health centre for the Cree Nation of Mistissini.
The Cree Nation of Mistissini (population approximately 3,500) is one of nine communities that make up the Cree territory of Eeyou Istchee in Northern Québec. Health and social services in Eeyou Istchee are delivered by the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay in partnership with the Québec Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS).
The new 4,717 m2 building will house the Mistissini Community Miyupimaatisiiun Centre (CMC), a health and social services facility comparable to a CSSS elsewhere in Québec. Miyupimaatisiiun means ‘being alive well,’ which conveys the Cree understanding of health as a holistic state that encompasses physical and emotional wellness.
The people of Mistissini have been looking forward to this day since the project began in 2009, and the expanded services in the new CMC will decrease wait times and lead to a better quality of service for Cree patients, and clients and staff of the Regional Hospital Centre in Chibougamau should also benefit from the expansion of capacity in Mistissini.
Mistissini is a rapidly growing community of about 3,500 people. The healthcare team saw over 25,000 clinical visits last year, and over 3,000 patients were evacuated from Mistissini, mainly to the Chibougamau Hospital 88 km away – a hardship for patients and their families which also results in increased costs.
The current clinic, built in the 1980s, lacks the space and technical infrastructure for essential diagnostic tools like a laboratory and radiology equipment, which has meant that a high volume of patients are sent to Chibougamau for simple follow-ups. One in four adults in Mistissini has diabetes, and one of the most welcome fixtures of the new building is a haemodialysis unit. Until now, patients needing these treatments had to make the round trip from Mistissini to Chibougamau several times a week.
Visitors to the new building will notice many design features that reflect the integration of Cree culture and values into the daily practice of medicine in Eeyou Istchee. The most striking example is the cedar room, an organic space inside the building set aside for traditional practices, reflection and healing under the guidance of Cree elders.
The inauguration of the new building was part of a day-long program activities hosted by the CBHSSJB and the Cree Nation of Mistissini. After a prayer and ribbon cutting ceremony attended by the representatives of the Québec government, the whole community was invited to tour the new building and join in Cree cultural activities and a feast to mark the 35th Anniversary of the CBHSSJB.
Transfer of services from the old building has begun and the CBHSSJB expects the new CMC to be fully operational in early June 2013.