Siksika Nation breaks ground for new continuing care facility

Siksika Nation has officially broken ground at the site of what will eventually be the Siksika Continuing Care Centre.

A ground-breaking ceremony was held at the site; directly adjacent to the Siksika Health and Wellness Centre; on Oct. 21 for which dignitaries and nation members had been invited to attend.

The future facility will offer 34 continuing care spaces for Siksika Nation members and surrounding communities.

Residents who will occupy the facility will be transferred over from the existing Siksika Elder’s Lodge. For the first time on the nation, Siksika elders will have access to long term care and designated assisted living within their own community.

“Today is a historic day for Siksika Nation, Siksika Health Services and the Government of Alberta. It is the start of the continuing care grant process, and we are so thrilled to be one of the grant recipients in collaboration with the Government of Alberta,” said Siksika Health Services CEO, Tyler White. “I think, as we begin this process, we are going to be able to create pathways for wellness and pathways for better care and better outcomes and equitable health care. I think that is so important and so today was a big statement.”

According to Alberta Minister of Health Jason Copping, $11.3 million was provided to Siksika Nation to aid in the construction of the facility by the Alberta Government.

Copping said the provincial government was honoured to be able to contribute and participate in the process as part of a broader initiative to build more continuing care spaces across the province.

“The sod turning is the first step. It is going to take some time to actually build the facility, but it is so important because we heard loud and clear from Albertans as part of our facility-based continuing care review that people want to, if they have to move into a continuing care setting, they want to do that close to home,” said Copping. “This will enable us to be able to support Indigenous peoples on Siksika Nation to be able to be close to home, and I applaud the vision of Dr. Tyler White for locating this rate, literally across the street, from their health centre.”

According to White, Siksika Nation members have been fiercely advocating for access to more local, equitable, and culturally appropriate health care.

Having the local facility will be a “game changer,” breaking down boundaries for Siksika Nation elders utilizing the new local services.

“I think bringing in our own traditional supports and healing, that will certainly strike in a positive way with our community members,” said White. “It is not going to be an easy road, but nothing is ever easy, especially in the health care system … I think (this) signals that these services are necessary in communities, especially when we’re talking about equitable health care. I think to have a continuing care in your facility, I think it’s going to make a difference in the lives of our Nation members.”

John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times