UCP to provide grant support to 6 Alberta First Nations communities for chartered surgical facilities

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The provincial government will provide grant support to six First Nations communities to develop proposals for chartered surgical facilities that could offer publicly funded surgeries for Albertans.

Enoch Cree Nation, Maskwacis Bands, Tsuut'ina Nation, Bigstone Cree Nation, Blood Tribe and Siksika Nation will each receive $50,000, the UCP government said Friday in a news release.

The funds will be used to complete an assessment to determine if a chartered facility would be beneficial for their communities, and then secure contractors and find investors.

"I think it's fantastic that we … can work together with our First Nations and our Indigenous communities to improve access to our Indigenous communities to health care, we can improve the health outcomes for the Indigenous people of this province," said Health Minister Tyler Shandro at a press conference Friday.

UCP hopes to reduce hospital wait times

As more chartered surgical facilities are able to provide surgeries in rural and urban areas, the government said that space will be freed up in hospitals. It is part of a UCP initiative to reduce hospital wait times across the province.

"We're very pleased First Nations communities can be part of the province's plan to provide more surgeries to all Albertans, living on or off reserve," said Chief Billy Morin of Enoch Cree Nation.

"With government support, we may one day build and open our own surgical facility based on Indigenous values that can drive health services and access to surgeries in Enoch."

Chief Roy Whitney-Onespot of the Tsuut'ina Nation said the facilities would enhance health care for both First Nations communities and surrounding communities, and would help to ensure health care that is required can be facilitated.

"I see this creating better and more easily accessible care for our nation members, but as well as for our relatives around and the people from the city of Calgary," Whitney-Onespot said.

"Finally, I see this as part of our nation's plan to build and manage our future in health care."

First Nations will be required to establish that the facility is close to a large hospital, in case patients require additional care, the press release said.

A medical director would also be required to work at each facility, and would be accountable for the quality and safety of its services.