Features of First Nations cultures that help promote their health and wellness will be embedded into the planned new St. Paul’s Hospital, thanks to a $2-million donation from BMO Financial Group.
The pledge, announced Tuesday by the St. Paul’s Foundation, will also be used to further work started in 2015 when the First Nations Health Authority Chair in heart health and wellness was established as a $2.5-million 10-year partnership of the health authority, St. Paul’s and Simon Fraser University.
Grand Chief Edward John said then that it was his 1998 heart attack that was the seed of the program focused on the cardiac health of B.C. First Nations people. His medical experiences helped him understand more about medical gaps for Indigenous Peoples and the need for culturally informed care.
In 2016, Jeff Reading was named the First Nations Chair in heart health and wellness and has led research into issues like the obstacles to timely care for First Nations individuals living in B.C.
Broek Bosma, chief development officer at the St. Paul’s foundation, said Reading will decide how to use the new BMO funds, but the pledge — over an unspecified time period — will be spent on salaries, research and design features in the new hospital. On the third floor of the existing St. Paul’s is an All Nations Sacred Space where First Nations patients can participate in smudging ceremonies and other customary healing practices. The new hospital will also have such features.
Reading has created what is called the first Indigenous Health Education Access Research and Training Centre at St. Paul’s (I-HEART). Its goal is to improve the health of Indigenous people by encouraging healthy diet, exercise and recreation, and by helping individuals manage chronic illnesses like diabetes, obesity, lung and kidney disease.
In 2017, Providence Health Care signed a commitment with the First Nations Health Authority to improve Indigenous health services. The hospital set up a team to advocate for patients. It also helps provide them with traditional items like blankets, foods like bison, salmon, and berries for ceremonies and gatherings, and traditional medicines for healing ceremonies. The hospital also has a rooftop garden with a section for traditional medicinal plants.