Thunder Bay

Walking in Humility leads to better Indigenous patient care at St. Joseph's Care Group

Nearly two years to the day, after it was first announced, Paul Francis Jr. says he's proud of the work he has done, as part of the Wiidosen Dabasendizowin: Walking with Humility report.

Two year update shows challenges Indigenous patients face in healthcare

St. Joseph's Care Group has released its two-year check into its Wiidosen Dabasendizowin: Walking with Humility. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

Nearly two years to the day, after it was first announced, Paul Francis Jr. says he's proud of the work he has done, as part of the Wiidosen Dabasendizowin: Walking with Humility report.

The concept, announced two years ago, was to determine the barriers and challenges faced by Indigenous people at St. Joseph's Care Group, where Francis Jr. is the director of Indigenous relations.

Francis Jr.  said his staff have helped numerous patients navigate the health care system, particularly when they do not have family in the city for help.

"They really support people. You know, like a client transitioning into long term care, our staff went out and bought his furniture," he said. "We know the importance of transitioning from a hospital to a long term care facility is not an easy challenge."

Francis Jr. said St. Joseph's Care Group has made improvements in staff training and education, noting there are about 2,400 staff between the group's numerous facilities. He said some education included providing information on the impact of residential schools, and cultural awareness.

"I don't think the average nurse or worker really understands the level of intergenerational and historical trauma," he said, "so we're doing our best to educate that and create a safe, welcoming space for our Indigenous clients."

Barriers to access include having to leave home communities for specialized services, cultural barriers, and historical barriers, like "Indian hospitals" mean additional work is needed to ensure patients feel safe and secure.

"We've got work to do, and we're doing that. We're creating our spaces, artwork, having staff, and across our sites we're doing that."

Francis Jr. pointed to having spiritual rooms and medicine gardens available at some sites, and allowing for a spiritual gathering lodge at St. Joseph's Hospital have also made an impact for patients feeling more welcome.

While there are successes to be celebrated, Francis Jr. said he wanted the report to look forward.

"I would like to see more staff, not just Indigenous, like for our team, but more Indigenous employees. So, we have a bit of work to do in this group with retention."

He said the group also needs to do more research and needs more statistics to help prove what type of supports are needed for patients.

"We're in it for the long haul, and that's the Walking with Humility. We know this is, we're not a checkbox item, this is really transformational."

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