'Hallelujah,' says northern Ontario doctor of policy change for Indigenous women giving birth away from home
Dr. Joseph Dooley has been calling for the change since 1992
A Sioux Lookout doctor says he's thrilled Indigenous women travelling away from home to give birth, will now be able to bring a companion for support.
The federal government says it will now pay for someone to come with women — a policy change for which Joseph Dooley, the head of obstetrics at the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre, has long advocated.
"I'd say Hallelujah, it's finally happened," said Dooley.
"We're very delighted that this is now something that's recognized as a normal part of what should be happening when women have to leave their community to have their babies."
Under the previous policy, Dooley said only women undergoing more risky pregnancies were eligible for someone to accompany them, despite the fact that there are known benefits to having supportive people around.
"We know that there are better outcomes when you have proper supports," he said. "There is a health benefit, long recognized."
'It's about time'
The policy change is something Nishnawbe Aski Nation has also long called for, said deputy grand chief Jason Smallboy, who holds NAN's health portfolio.
"I was glad to hear it," he said. "It's about time."
The change is a good start he said, but there's still much more he'd like to see the government address when it comes to medical travel policies for First Nations, including allowances for travel companions for other medical procedures.
"Just the thought of sending somebody who has never really been to an urban area on their own, you know, is pretty scary," he said, "and I've heard of situations where people just don't want to go."