Healthy be­gin­ning

Eskasoni Health Cen­tre of­fi­cially opens

Cape Breton Post - - Cape Breton - BY EL­IZ­A­BETH PAT­TER­SON news@cb­post.com

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.”

EL­IZ­A­BETH PAT­TER­SON/CAPE BRE­TON POST

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.

Doucette

Denny

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