Big River First Nation residents will no longer have to leave their community for a trip to the dentist.
The University of Saskatchewan’s College of Dentistry announced on Monday that it will open a clinic at the Big River First Nation Health Centre. Previously, residents had to travel as far as Shellbrook, Prince Albert or Saskatoon for dental care, a U of S statement said.
“Access to dentists and other medical services is an issue for a large part of the population on reserve,” the First Nation’s chief and council said in a statement.
“The opportunity to have a dental clinic in our community means we are moving forward in our goals of improving (the) health disparity for Indigenous people.”
Big River First Nation is about 140 kilometres north of Saskatoon. Its new clinic will offer diagnostic, treatment and preventative services.
The college will plan services with the community and hire the clinic’s staff. Clinic hours will depend on demand and also offer extended availability, including some evenings and weekends, the U of S said in a statement.
The location in the health centre and housing for the clinic’s staff are an in-kind contribution from the First Nation.
“This clinic will be a great opportunity for First Nations people to receive continuing oral health care rather than emergency treatment only,” local dental therapist Melanie Martell said in a statement.
The U of S said it has opened four clinics in northern and First Nations communities, in addition to a dental clinic on its Prince Albert campus that is scheduled to open on Oct. 5.
“Access to care is a barrier to oral health that can be seen across underserved populations, as well as rural and remote areas of Saskatchewan,” said Dr. Amrinderbir Singh, who is the dental college’s director of inclusive community care.
Singh added the Big River clinic’s aim is “to improve access to dental services and bring culturally appropriate care closer to home for residents in the area.”
Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix