Eskasoni Health Centre officially opens
Elder Georgina Doucette is emphatic when asked about the importance of the new Eskasoni Health Centre.
“It’s very important,” said Doucette shortly after it was officially opened on Friday afternoon.
“It’s a lifeline for all of us.” She would know. She was on the Eskasoni health board for 12 years and her own family has experienced its own serious health issues. Health problems like heart disease and diabetes are prevalent in Eskasoni but Doucette is optimistic the new centre may help alleviate some of those concerns. “We have a lot of medical problems here,” she says. “We have diabetes, we have heart disease, we have childhood diseases and children born with autism so this is very much needed. And we’re very fortunate to finally get what we wanted.”
The $10.1 million centre on the Eskasoni waterfront is more than double the size of its previous centre, which is still in use. In fact, it’s the largest on-reserve health centre in Atlantic Canada. Indigenous Services Canada invested $6.6 million into the project and Eskasoni First Nation contributed $3.5 million.
It’s money well-spent, says Chief Leroy Denny.
“(The previous building) just didn’t meet our needs and we have grown very quickly in just a decade,” Denny said just before the ribbon cutting took place.
“In 2009 we began the long process of preparing the new facility that will service more of our community’s needs. We needed to secure the land, the removal of the remnants of the old school as well as environmental site assessments — plan the site, find the right contractors for the job. We worked hard to make this happen for our community.”
The new centre will feature a wide variety of health services and programs including a dental clinic, pharmacy, mental health, health promotion, disease prevention and primary care. Many staff members at the centre are from Eskasoni and speak Mi’kmaq which Denny says is key to the centre’s success.
“This is a fluent community and the majority of our members speak Mi’kmaq,” he said.
Denny added that the chiefs
and medical directors from around Nova Scotia have been meeting about eventually running their own health-care system in the future.
“The chiefs and all the health directors have all been talking and putting our vision together, how it will look for the future because we’re the only ones, I believe, the Mi’kmaq people, to look after this in our own way.”
Until that happens, Elder Georgina Doucette wants the centre to encourage better lifestyle habits for residents so they will have fewer health issues.
“I’m hoping that more people will learn from the staff here how to care for themselves, mentally, physically and spiritually.”
Eskasoni students sing the Honour Song during the grand opening of the Eskasoni Health Centre on Friday, while MP Mark Eyking, back centre left, and Eskasoni Chief Leroy Denny, back centre right, listen intently.