“The community will benefit a lot by having services that are available in their own community. Calgary is not very far from here and we have excellent services through AHS, but definitely something in the community and close to your home is what our mission and vision is for the community.”
MÎNÎ THNÎ – The Stoney Health Centre will almost double in size to help residents of the Îyârhe Nakoda (Stoney Nakoda) First Nation with their health needs.
The centre, located in Mînî Thnî (Morley), will grow from its existing 1,112 square metres to 2,031 square metres.
Aaron Khan, the CEO of Stoney Health Services, said the $11 million expansion will help the community and its residents in the coming years.
“The community will benefit a lot by having services that are available in their own community,” he said. “Calgary is not very far from here and we have excellent services through AHS (Alberta Health Services), but definitely something in the community and close to your home is what our mission and vision is for the community.”
Construction is anticipated to begin before the end of April and take two to two-and-a-half years to complete. The construction won’t impact services provided to the Îyârhe Nakoda First Nation.
“We recognize that many of our Nation’s people face challenges in getting care and we want to be sure that we are protecting and improve the health and wellness opportunities for our peoples for the future,” said Clifford Poucette, chief of the Wesley First Nation.
The health centre was constructed in 1998 and designed to serve a population of about 2,000 people. However, since then, the Îyârhe Nakoda First Nation has exploded in population to more than 5,000 people.
The demand for services has also boomed from 9,606 visits in 2017 to 30,339 in 2020 for a 215 per cent growth in service.
Khan said the goal is to provide as many services as possible locally, but that there are still six satellite locations throughout the community. He also said a residential treatment centre near the Wesley Elders Lodge will be operational in the next four to five months.
“There has been a huge increase in the population since then. … With this expansion, we will be able to expand our existing programs and have more space to serve the needs of our growing community,” Khan said.
Tony Festeryga, the director of health facilities program First Nation Inuit health branch for Indigenous Service Canada Alberta, said the $11 million in costs cover the construction, but also the entirety of the process is “to make sure it meets the needs of the Nation.”
He said the process has a First Nation express a need for an expansion followed by a consultant reviewing the plans.
“This expansion means so much to our communities – our children, grandchildren and their grandchildren’s health – today, tomorrow and the future,” said Darcy Dixon, chief of the Bearspaw First Nation.
The event had a traditional blessing ceremony of a pipe ceremony and smudging as well as a drum circle, singers and local dancers.
Dixon, Poucette and Chiniki Chief Aaron Young and community elders also spoke on the importance the expansion will have in the community.
“We see an average of 100 kids born every year and the health centre is very busy. … It’s a pretty huge number for a community of (our size), so our programs are very busy and we need a bigger place,” Khan said. “The new facility will be able to offer the services that are required of our community.”