Nanoose First Nation Health Centre
Nanoose First Nation Health Centre
By David Holmes
A dream a decade in the making, the Nanoose First Nation Health Centre has become, since its opening in 2011, a community focal point for both the health and social wellbeing of the nation – and it’s story that’s far from over. “In the beginning we negotiated for a health transfer from Health Canada who provided us with the funding to operate a number of different programs. That’s how it started out and it took 10 years to talk with and nag them to get this building,” explained David Bob, former Chief and current Health Director of the facility.
A two story, 4,000 square foot community resource, the Nanoose First Nation Health Centre is home to a wide range of different programs and services related to health care and community wellness. “The Centre was started to provide community outreach for programs but now we have enlisted the services of a Doctor who works on site twice a week. Currently we have a resident Doctor on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” he said.
Part of the responsibility of operating the facility falls to the Intertribal Health Authority (ITHA) an umbrella organization created to support its member First Nations by providing health care programs and social services to enhance quality of life while recognizing the need to maintain traditional and cultural values. As a relatively small First Nation, the Nanoose First Nation (Snaw-Naw-As) lacked the resources and population base to undertake such a project on its own.
“We’re a small nation having less than 300 members so we would not have been able to have organized a health transfer on our own. ITHA allows small nations to pool their resources, making collectively a larger voice. That’s what allowed us to negotiate with Health Canada, and ultimately that’s what allowed this centre to be here,” he said.
The negotiations to authorize the health transfer authority from the federal government to the individual First Nations involved eight different communities, including the Nanoose First Nation. “When they have eight small nations together Health Canada thought they’d give us a blanket transfer but we fought against that, telling them that we’ll negotiate as a group but that each individual village will have their own health transfer. Each community has their own unique needs so a one size fits all approach wouldn’t work,” Bob explained.
In addition to David Bob the health centre employs a Community Health Representative (CHR), an ADAPT (Alcohol and Drug Awareness and Prevention Team) worker who functions as a drug and alcohol counselor and a Health Nurse who works two days a week supporting the visiting doctor. But the Health Centre is also home to a variety of different programs supported by a team of dedicated volunteers. Bob said at a recent office function there were more than 20 people in attendance, individuals who are involved with the Centre in some capacity.
“We offer reflexology, massage, chiropractic services, nurse services for diabetic patients and the elders. We have worked out a partnership agreement with Island Health to allow us to have two drug abuse and mental health counselors who come from Oceanside. We have a youth worker on the mental health side from Kw’umut Lelum (in Nanaimo) who is our child and family services provider. He also comes from Island Health. Most recently we’ve added an occupational therapist. She comes in on Fridays. So as you can see there are a lot of things happening,” he said.
For the future the Nanoose First Nation is hoping to add even more services as the facility is far from being completely built out. While the upper 2,000 square feet is fully finished there are undeveloped areas on the lower floor ripe for future development.
“I can see in the future that to keep us viable we’ll have to open the doors to the general public not just for the First Nation. This is a community resource for the entire community, not just for the Nanoose people. It’s not there yet but moving forward that’s likely the direction we’ll be going,” he said.
To learn more please visit the First Nation’s website at: www.nanoose.org