BATTLEFORDS INDIAN HEALTH CENTRE INC.

Background Information

     The opening of the Battlefords Indian Health Centre represents over fifteen years of discussions, confrontation, and further negotiations by the Indian people in an attempt to maintain and improve health services for Indian people in the North Battleford District.

     In the past the Indian people enjoyed their own health services in the form of their own Indian Hospital. this hospital did not provide a total range of up-to-date hospital services, it did provide an atmosphere where Indian people felt comfortable.

     With the need for expanded and upgraded general hospital facilities in North Battleford and the degeneration of the Indian Hospital, discussions began to take place about expanding the Union Hospital in North Battleford to include facilities and additional bed space for the Indian people. Although these proposals made sense from an administrative and facilities point of view, the Indian people realized that it would result in a downgrading of both their own level of services and their treaty rights as well.

     Initial discussions were mainly between the Saskatchewan Hospital Services Plan, the Department of Health and Welfare, and the Battleford's Union Hospital with virtually no consultation with the Indian people who stood to lose the most. Discussions centered mainly on the cost sharing implications and bed utilization of an expanded facility and paid little attention to other services which may have benefited the Indian people in a more direct fashion.

     As the Indian people became aware of the planned downgrading of their health facilities they began to express their discontent in a variety of ways, however, despite their objections the then Minister of National Health and Were, Mr. John Munro decided in 1971 to support the expansion of the Union Hospital and the closure of the Indian Hospital.

      The Indian people had never agreed to this proposal and continued to make representations both locally to Ottawa to reconsider the decision. In 1973, the Minister of Health and Mr. Marc Lalonde agreed to reconsider the closure 01 the Indian hospital and further discussions and negotiations took place.

     These discussions were carried on from the period of 1971 until early 1977 and rather than reaching any the agreements more and more misunderstanding and conflict developed. The two major sources of conflict were due to fact that despite the Federal Government's contribution of approximately $2.5 million dollars to the hospital there would be fewer beds for Indians than they had previously in the Indian hospital. In addition, there was no for any special outreach or ambulatory services to deal with the majority of health problems that should not require hospital admission. It became apparent that the provision of adequate health services to the Indian people in North Battleford District required far more than upgrading of acute care facilities.

     In April of 1977, the Indian Chiefs of the North Battleford District submitted a brief to the Honorable Marc Lalonde and the Honorable Warren Allmand the Minister of Indian Affairs, expressing their concerns and their frustrations over the misunderstandings and the lack of regard for the Indian point of view. This brief contained suggestions for a review of overall Indian Health problems related to social conditions, housing, education, and general community Health services. In response to this brief, Mr. Lalonde appointed a task force in May 1977 to review the numerous concerns and suggestions expressed by the Chiefs. This task force consisted of representatives of the North Battleford Chiefs, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians, the Province of Saskatchewan, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, and the Department of National Health and Welfare. They made a number of recommendations pertaining to overall improvement of health and social services in the North Battleford District. They proposed the continuation and expansion of community health services through an Indian Health Centre and concurred with the closure of acute care facilities of the Indian Hospital. Immediately following the receipt of this report Mr. Lalonde announced the closure of the Indian Hospital as a hospital. Unfortunately some of the recommendations of the task force were altered by the Chairperson without the knowledge or consent of the Indian representatives, and when this fact was revealed the Indian Community were justifiably upset.

     Under pressure from the Indian people, Mr. Lalonde agreed to another review of the situation by Dr. Clarkson who made a number of suggestions for the establishment of an Indian Health Centre geared to providing comprehensive community services that had not been adequately outlined in earlier proposals. Using the basic guidelines of Dr. Clarkson's report, proposals were drawn up for the Indian Health Centre which is being opened today. With funding from the Department of National Health and Welfare, an administrative structure was established consisting of a Board of Directors representing all of the reserves in the North Battleford District. The Board of Directors together with they have hired has spent the last six months turning the health centre into a reality.

Governing Body

     The governing body of the Battlefords Indian Health Centre Inc. is the Board of Directors which consists of Chiefs of Little Pine, Sweetgrass, Red Pheasant, Mosquito, Moosomin, Saulteaux, Thunderchild, Onion Lake and Lucky Man. The Chairman of the Board 1s Steve Pooyak who was Chief of Sweetgrass Band at the formation of the Board. The Board of Directors appointed an Advisory Board whose primary responsibility is to recommend policies and programs of the Centre to the Board of Directors. The Advisory Board consists of three Chiefs, a representative from Indian Affairs, two representatives from National Health and Welfare, District Chiefs Representative, and the Chairman.

     The objectives of the Battlefords Indian Health Centre Inc. are as follows:

  • to ensure that comprehensive health services are delivered to the Indian Bands in the North Battleford District as a mat­ter of Indian right under the British North America Act, Treaty Number 6 between Her Majesty and the Cree Nation and the Indian Act
  • to provide direction to Her Majesty in the operation of the Battlefords Indian Health Centre Inc.
  • to act as an agent for Her Majesty in the operation of the Battlefords Indian Health Centre Inc.
  • to augment and support primary health care services on the reserves in the North Battleford District and to offer the In­dian community an alternative choice of physician's services
  • to involve the Indians of the North Battleford District in the administration of health programs so that these programs are accessible, acceptable and used
  • to promote higher standards of health care services to Indian Bands and Reserves in the North Battleford District
  • to provide opportunities for Indian people, through their duly elected Indian Band Government, to plan, direct, implement and deliver health services and programs to the Indian people in the North Battleford District
  • to provide training opportunities for Indian people in the North Battleford District
  • to increase the self-respect, esteem, and self-reliance of Indian people in and associated with the health care field in the North Battleford district
  • to facilitate direct liaison and cooperation between the Indian and non-Indian communities, in the provision of health services and the delivery of health programs for Indian people in the North Battleford District.

 

Canada's First Indian-Controlled Health Centre Opens

     The first Indian controlled Health Centre in Canada was recently opened in the city of North Battleford, Saskatchewan. The opening of the Battlefords Indian Health Centre represents over 15 years of discussions, negotiations, confrontation and further negotiations by the Indian people in an attempt to maintain and improve health services for Indian people in the North Battleford District.

     In the past the Indian people enjoyed their own health services in the form of their own Indian Hospital. Although this hospital did not provide a total range of up-to-date hospital services, it did provide an atmosphere where Indian people felt comfortable.

     With the need for expanded and upgraded general hospital facilities in North Battleford and the degeneration of the Indian Hospital, discussions began to take place about expanding the Union Hospital in North Battleford to include facilities and additional bed space for the Indian people. Although these proposals made sense from an administrative and facilities point of view, the Indian people realized that it would result in a downgrading of both their own level of services and their treaty rights as well.

     Officials from the Department of Health and Welfare of Canada and the Battleford's Union Hospital conducted negotiations with the Indian Health Lay Advisory Board during 1961-1971. Throughout the negotiations, Indian leaders consistently stated that they did not want to amalgamate the two hospitals.

     In 1971, the former Minister of Health, John Munro decided unilaterally to accept the Union Hospital's proposal and closed the Indian Hospital.

     The Indian leaders had never agreed to the proposal and continued to make representation to Ottawa to reconsider the decision. In 1973, former Health Minister Marc Lalonde agreed to reconsider the closure of the Indian hospital and further discussions and negotiations took place.

     In 1977, the Indian Chiefs of the North Battleford District submitted a brief to the Honourable Marc Lalonde and the Honourable Warren Allmand, the Minister of Indian Affairs expressing their concerns and their frustrations over the misunderstandings and the lack of regard for the Indian's point of view.

     This brief contained suggestions for a review of overall Indian health problems related to social conditions, housing, education and general community health services.

     In response to the brief, Mr. Lalonde appointed a task force in May 1977 to review the numerous concerns and suggestions expressed by the Chiefs.

     The task force consisted of representatives of the North Battleford Chiefs, Federation of Saskatchewan Indians, Province of Saskatchewan, Department of Indian Affairs and the Department of National Health and Welfare.

     They proposed the continuation and expansion of community health services through an Indian Health Centre and concurred with the closure of acute care facilities of the Indian Hospital. Receiving this report, Mr. Lalonde announced the closure of the Indian Hospital.

     Under pressure from the Indian people, Mr. Lalonde agreed to another review of the situation and retained Dr. Graham Clarkson in July of 1977 to develop a ''concrete, functional health services plan for the reserves in the North Battleford area substantiated by way of statistical information.''

     Dr. Clarkson’s suggestions were for the establishment of an Indian Health Centre geared to providing comprehensive community services that had not been adequately outlined in earlier proposals.

     With funding from the Department of National Health and Welfare, an administrative structure was established consisting of a Board of Directors representing all of the reserves in the North Battleford district.