The Ministry of Health and Long-term Care has given approval to the Lake of the Woods District Hospital and the Kenora Chiefs Advisory to move forward with the first phase of planning for the All Nations Hospital Project.
“It’s something that we’ve waited for, for a long time. It’s going to take a long time to realize this dream, and it all starts with the planning process. We’re very excited to begin,” said President and CEO, Ray Racette.
The All-Nations Hospital will be an eventual replacement of the Lake of the Woods District Hospital, and it aims to ensure that Kenora and the First Nations communities in the region have better access to health-care. The hospital would follow a model based on the Meno-Ya-Win Health Centre in Sioux Lookout.
“We are truly excited to begin planning this long-awaited project that is so important for the communities and Indigenous Peoples we serve,” remarked LWDH Board Chair, Wendy Cuthbert. “We look forward to working with our partners, Indigenous Peoples, staff, physicians, Kenora and surrounding communities to ensure their ideas inform our new facility."
The Lake of the Woods District Hospital was established in 1929, and is in “urgent” need of replacement. President Racette explained why the project is vital to the community.
“We serve All Nations already, but our hospital wasn’t designed for All Nations. It never took into account all of the communities and people that we serve. There’s no place for Indigenous ceremonies, smudging can only happen in certain rooms, and it’s hard to incorporate large families to mourn.”
“It was also not designed for accessibility. Our washrooms are too small. Our rooms are undersized. So in terms of modern times, we don’t have an accessible building. Our emergency room was never designed for the amount of people that we serve. We also get to build a hospital with environmental consciousness, which will be a very important element for this project.”
Racette added that the new hospital will also have improved spaces for staff, and more of a focus on emerging technologies for both staff and patients. The hospital currently does not have an estimation on how much money the new facility will cost.
The first phase of planning will occur over the next 24 months, and will be conducted in partnership between KCA and the LWDH. A project steering committee will report to the hospital board to oversee the project. It will include representation from KCA, Treaty #3, the hospital, the City of Kenora, the Kenora Metis Council, the community, and hospital staff. A project manager will also be recruited.
“The planning phase is probably two years of really important work. All of the ideas captured in the planning phase, get focused into what actually becomes the project. The next phase will be approval to proceed with the design, which could take up to two years. We need to get approval through each phase through the ministry. By the time we do the work, get the approvals, and get the money, it will take at least six years,” added Racette.
Hospital staff say that public involvement, along with partner and staff insight, will be essential in planning a modern hospital campus that will meet the community’s needs, be culturally-sensitive to Indigenous peoples and values, and to improve health outcomes.
The All Nations hospital currently does not have an approved location. Racette says that the planning committee will look at creating a completely new addition that will be connected to the existing hospital, as there are advantages to keep the existing site, but staff will also look at building the hospital in a brand new location. Racette helped merge Morden and Winkler’s aging hospitals into a singular building earlier in his career.
The initiative began as Chiefs, Elders and health directors from the community visited an All Nations Hospital model in Saskatchewan in 2011, and developed a vision of having a similar model in the Kenora area.
The Kenora Chiefs Advisory then worked to establish partnerships and relationships with various levels of government, the North West Local Health Integration Network, Grand Council Treaty #3, the City of Kenora, the Municipality of Sioux Narrows and Nestor Falls, and the local All Nations Health Partners to push the project forward.
“Today is a proud day for all of us involved to announce we are beginning the planning process. This is proof that by working together in partnership we can achieve great things and make positive change in the health outcomes for everyone," said Chief Chris Skead.
"We say Miigwetch to our Elders Council and Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh for all their support and leadership, and say Miigwetch and acknowledge all the hard work of the CEO, staff and the board of directors at the Lake of the Woods District Hospital”.
In June of 2017, the ministry provided $2.5 million in funding to assist the Lake of the Woods District Hospital and the city’s All-Nations Health Committee with the new hospital’s planning process.
For more information:
$2.5 million for new Kenora hospital
Health reforms top priority, CEO