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Willow Cree Health Services (WCHS) has earned national recognition for its high standards of planning, management and delivery of heath care.
The community-based health clinic, located on the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation near Duck Lake, has been accredited by the Canadian Accreditation Council (CAC). A celebration marking the culmination of the two-year accreditation process was held on the clinic grounds on Monday, May 30.
“It’s very exciting to see this day arrive,” said WCHS Director of Health Jenny Gardipy. “It’s been a long journey, but it’s been well worth it. We have a tremendous team here and they deserve a lot of credit for this accomplishment.”
Gardipy said when she was hired as director for the health centre in her home community in May, 2014, one of her main goals was to achieve accreditation status.
“When I worked at White Buffalo I saw how their accreditation helped that organization,” she said. “I wanted to see the same kind of standards in place here.”
Gardipy and her staff worked closely with local Health Canada officials, including Genevieve Binette and Lana Davies, to get the ball rolling, and the centre’s “operations manual” outlining its policies and procedures was submitted to the CAC in November 2015.
In January, 2016, WCHS was notified it was “100 per cent compliant” with its submission; a “phenomenal” mark for a First Nations clinic operating with limited resources, according to Alexander Campbell, Regional Director General for Health Canada.
“First Nations health care in general is not on a par with the rest of the country,” said Campbell. “But there are many excellent facilities, and this is one.
“There are currently 21 First Nations health facilities going through the accreditation process, and this centre is paving the way for others. To accomplish this in less than two years is amazing.”
The WCHS focuses on spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health, and is accredited in 13 areas ranging from mental health and addictions to children’s health and environmental health.
The WCHS clinic had an on-site visit from CAC on February 9 snf received a very positive response report from the CAC on March 11. The official notice of accreditation was received on April 18, 2016.
Accreditation represents an ongoing commitment to excellence, according to Calvin Wood, Chief Executive Officer of the CAC.
“It’s more than just a plaque on the wall,” said Wood in a presentation to the gathering attended by staff, clients, board members and councilors with the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation. “It represents a solid foundation for the organization so that it will continue to operate effectively regardless of staff turnover. It shows that it has policies and procedures in place to ensure that client files remain confidential, intact and secure so individuals receive appropriate care when they need it.”
Wood said the accreditation is good for three years, and the second time around in 2019 should be easier provided the staff and directors “internalize” the standards and processes involved.
“It’s not just a matter of jumping through hoops,” said Wood. “It’s understanding the reasons why these standards are in place.
“You’re adding value to the community and contributing to the overall health of the community.”
Beardy’s and Okemasis councilor Roy Petit said the accreditation shows that good quality community-based health care services are available, but it takes a grassroots community effort to make it happen.
Lorna Okemaysim, one of the elders of the First Nation, led the ceremonial opening prayers in Cree and English prior to the presentation. Guest speakers received traditional blankets made by the “Starblanket Ladies”. Entertainment included traditional dances by students from Constable Robin Cameron Education Centre, Rosanna Seeseequasis and Michael Gamble, and Metis fiddle and guitar music by Dallas and Phil Boyer.