When First Nations, Inuit and Métis (FNIM) people experience culturally safe healthcare, patient experiences and outcomes are improved. This understanding is the driver of exciting steps towards change out of the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario.
“We work every day with our partners and patients to design cancer care services that help our entire community, including efforts specifically designed to help our Indigenous patients,” says Dr. Hugh Langley, Regional Primary Care Lead and Aboriginal Lead for the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario. “It’s important that we offer care that addresses specific community needs and unique challenges relevant to cancer care.”
To do this, a regional Aboriginal Council has been established to ensure that there is an ongoing FNIM voice at the table when decisions are being made that impact patient care at the Cancer Centre. The ultimate goal of this council is to help create a healthcare system that Indigenous Persons will feel comfortable in and trust to go to with their health care issues and concerns.
“We know that breast, colorectal and lung cancer rates are elevated in Indigenous Persons and that cancer diagnoses are more often made at a later stage,” says Langley. “In working together with our Indigenous community we will be able to make real change and actions that will stick and build trust and confidence for our Indigenous communities with the services that we can offer.”
Already some big changes have been made. On the recommendation of the council, the Mamawi Room has been created at Kingston General Hospital site. The space was designed with input from Indigenous patients who were asking for an area to perform culturally important ceremonies such as smudging, circle prayer and singing. This room enables patients to gather with family to perform traditional healing practices while in hospital.
“The Mamawi Room makes a huge difference for Indigenous patients to be welcome to incorporate traditional healing into what many feel is a daunting hospital setting,” says Aboriginal Navigator, Dionne Nolan. “We want to support patients on their journey to healing so it is exciting that they have a safe space, where traditional cultural values and beliefs can be practiced.”
The role of an Aboriginal Navigator also helps to ensure that Indigenous patients are getting the full supports they need. Working with patients and families from all across southeastern Ontario, Dionne is available to provide support and advocacy for those who identify as FNIM through facilitation and coordination of access to all cancer services.
“For our Indigenous patients, care extends beyond treatment and encompasses spiritual well-being,” says Nolan. “The more that we can raise awareness across the region of the resources available to Indigenous patients, the more we will be able to help instill confidence in the care we can provide.”