First Nations health care plan reaches southern Ontario

Ontario is investing $222 million into First Nations health care, which will ensure Indigenous communities have better access to culturally appropriate care.

'We certainly need to make sure investments reach all communities,' Ontario Regional Chief says

Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day says Indigenous communities in southern Ontario can look forward to better health care as the province invests $222 million into the First Nations Health Action Plan. (CBC)

Ontario is investing $222 million into First Nations health care over the next three years to ensure Indigenous people in the province have access to more culturally appropriate care.

The plan also aims to improve health outcomes.

The health plan is mainly focused on northern communities, but that doesn't mean indigenous communities throughout the rest of Ontario will be left out.

Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day said the province's investments will reach other areas, including southern Ontario.

"We're going to see some of the investments fall into the south, like promotion and crisis support," he said.

Four areas of care

Day said the health plan focuses on four areas of health care, which include:

  • Primary care: Including increasing physician services by 28 per cent.
  • Public health and health promotion: Focusing on diabetes and mental health programming, as well as ensuring children have better access to fruits and vegetables.
  • Seniors care and hospital services: Including creating a 20-bed facility in the Sioux district.
  • Life promotion and crisis support: In response to suicides predominantly in the north.

Day said there is an issue of needs-based funding, and while the funding is needed in northern communities, it is also important to other areas.

"Where it's needed most as well is in some of the southern communities where they may be in a more rural situation, where they don't have access to doctors," he said.

He said it's still early in the planning stages and added he was happy to hear about the $220 million at this point in time.

"We think it's a huge step forward, but we certainly need to make sure investments reach all communities," Day said.

Focusing on cultural teachings

Day said the health plan is also focused on incorporating cultural teachings and community involvement.

Previously, there was no formal recognition of a community knowledge keeper, who may have known about some medicines or community-based methods of mental health and crisis response, he said.

But this is going to change.

Now, government policy makers are going to recognize these traditional methods as a formal part of the health care system, he said.

"I think it's probably one of the hugest aspects of this and it will definitely become more accepted," he said.

Day said if communities see themselves as part this plan, there will be more ownership, which will lead to better health outcomes.

"One of the things that I will look to is that the young people in the north will finally see that our government has stepped up to the plate," he said. "We can build on that coming from a position of strength, versus one of feeling defeated and not recognized."