Medical travellers on the Air Creebec-CBHSSJB charter who have a layover in Chisasibi are invited to spend time in the newly opened Wiichihiituwin Lounge, which is equipped with comfortable seating, a nursing chair, a TV, a play area for children and healthy refreshments.
On May 26 the Cree Health Board Wiichihiituwin Lounge at Robert Kanatewat Airport was formally opened by dignitaries from the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay, Air Creebec and the Cree Nation of Chisasibi. The lounge is a comfortable space where Cree Health Board clients who are travelling outside their home community for medical reasons can rest and have lunch while waiting for their flight.
Wiichihiituwin, which means ‘helping one another,’ is the new name of the Cree Patient Services Department of the CBHSSJB. The Department coordinates medically necessary travel for clients of the Cree Health Board. Currently the Department coordinates more than 25,000 trips a year by Cree patients who need to leave home to get specialized medical and social services that are not available in Eeyou Istchee, such as surgery and cancer treatment.
At the opening of the Lounge, Wiichihiituwin Interim Director Hélène Shecapio-Blacksmith welcomed guests and clients, and there were opening remarks by Chisasibi Deputy Chief Daisy House and Air Creebec executives Matthew Happyjack and Tanya Pash. Chisasibi Anglican Deacon Eliza Webb led a prayer of blessing.
In his remarks, Interim Executive Director of the CBHSSJB, Daniel St-Amour explained how the establishment of the lounge is part a larger strategy that will culminate in the construction of a new Regional Hospital in Chisasibi; what he calls ‘Vision 2024.’
St-Amour talked about how the partnership with Air Creebec’s charter services is improving the travel experience for Cree Health Board clients travelling out of the region for healthcare. “The first phase of improvement was the air charter between Chisasibi and Montreal via Val-d'Or, which started in November 2015. The second phase was a charter from Chibougamau to Montreal and Val-d’Or, which started last July. This inland charter was a specific request of Bella M. Petawabano, our Chair.” He added, “Now, we are improving these services, starting June 12, with more daily flights between Val-d’Or and Chisasibi, and more flights with stretchers on board.”
The newly implemented medical charter service is one of the cornerstones of a plan to make Chisasibi the hub of healthcare services in Eeyou Istchee. As St-Amour stated in his remarks at the opening of the Client Lounge, “the clinical plan for the new Chisasibi Hospital and Community Miyupimaatisiiuun Centre (CMC) have been approved by the Ministry of Health and Social Services of Québec. We are planning to open the new hospital in 2024. That's the date to remember: 2024.”
Between now and 2024, there will be more strengthening of the transportation logistics around Chisasibi as a regional hub, in order to make the travel experience as restful and hassle-free as possible for Cree Health Board clients. “To have a successful regional hospital, you're going to see the air charters converging towards Chisasibi. So that's what's coming. That's 2024. You're going to see improvements year by year to get us there.”