New Indigenous health care centre opens in Victoria | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

New Indigenous health care centre opens in Victoria

Victoria, BC

The Victoria Native Friendship Centre (VNFC) has expanded its existing primary care clinic that operates out of its main building, with a new facility at a nearby location. This more than double the friendship centre’s health care capacity, from serving a list of approximately 1,800 Indigenous patients up to 4,500 with the opening of its new Camas Lelum Primary Care Clinic.

On May 9 the VNFC hosted a grand opening celebration at its new location at 209-2951 Tillicum Road. Executive Director Wush’q, Ron Rice, said the new location was selected for its location on a bus route and near a pharmacy, making it accessible and convenient to those that need it. And, he says, the clinic operating at the VNFC facility remains open, so there are now two places to access this type of health care service.

"We are excited to offer this new safe space for urban Indigenous health care, which is desperately needed by our community as we begin to understand the prevalence of discrimination and racism in the health-care system," said Rice. "This important step - Indigenous ownership of health services - is the culmination of many years of effort, partnership, and perseverance in Indigenous health care."

Billed as “culturally safe services woven into the needs and wants of the community”, Camas Lelum Primary Care Clinic offers health care for urban Indigenous patients living on or off reserve.

“We serve Indigenous community members of all ages and their families, including both on-and-off reserve First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities,” states the clinic’s brochure.

The B.C. Ministry of Health has approved approximately $2 million in ongoing annual funding through the Victoria Primary Care Network for VNFC Health Centre. In addition, the Ministry of Health has provided $2.9 million in one-time amounts for tenant improvements and lease deposit.

According to the Ministry of Health, the health centre is a partnership between the VNFC, the Victoria Primary Care Network (PCN), and the province. The centre provides culturally safe, longitudinal primary health-care services to people who identify as Indigenous and live in the Greater Victoria area and who do not have a primary care provider.

They went to say that the team-based approach of the VNFC Health Centre will improve access to inclusive, culturally safe primary care, offer mental-health and addictions services, support seniors with complex health needs, and provide better continuity of care for all patients. “This will ensure that those who identify as Indigenous can experience equitable access to preventive and primary health-care services,” the Ministry said in a written statement.

“This new centre is already benefiting people in Victoria who self-identify as Indigenous as they have a safe space to get the health-care services they need," said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. "I am proud of our work with the Victoria Native Friendship Centre and the Victoria Primary Care Network as we move along towards reconciliation. This new clinic is also part of our work to strengthen access to comprehensive and equitable health-care services in the province."

According to Monique Gray-Smith, a speaker at the grand opening ceremony, the VNFC has offered primary culturally safe health care services for more than 20 years. What sets this model of health care apart from mainstream services is that providers at the friendship centre are open and allow patients access to cultural practices and medicines.

"This primary care centre is a step towards addressing gaps and dismantling the structural and systemic inequities that have created unjust disparities in health care perpetuated by colonialism," said Leah Hollins, board chair of Island Health.

“In addition to culturally safe primary care services, Camas Lelum Primary Care Clinic also promotes access to Indigenous cultural practice and medicine as a part of health care services,” reads the brochure from Camas Lelum Primary Care Clinic.

They go on to say that this clinic is an important step towards Indigenous ownership of health services.

Melvin Jones is a patient of Camas Lelum Primary Clinic. He said that he is a survivor, and he thanked the staff of the clinic for helping him recover after major surgery.

“I got new lungs,” he said with a big smile as he thanked nurse practitioner Danielle, who helps him in his treatment.

Jones was impressed with the size of the new Camas Lelum Primary Clinic.

“It’s huge compared to the other one,” he said. “But it’s not at the friendship centre, but that’s okay, I got two places now.”

Camas Lelum Primary Clinic has an interdisciplinary team made of family physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses and medical office assistants.

“We provide culturally safe health care in seamless integration with our broader team of Primary Care Network Indigenous wellness providers, mental health and substance use supports, wellness and cultural services including access to elders and traditional knowledge keepers,” stated information from the Camas Lelum clinic.

Camas Lelum Primary Care Clinic operates from 9:30 am to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday at 209-2951 Tillicum Road.

The VNFC is a non-profit Indigenous-led organization located on southern Vancouver Island since 1969, on the territory of the Lekwungen-speaking people, the Songhees Nation and Esquimalt Nation.

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