Medical service bus to provide care for Saskatchewan Indigenous communities

Non-profit fundraising group Synergy 8 announced a $3.3-million project that aims to serve Indigenous communities lacking access to medical care.

Ten years ago, the group launched and funded a mobile health unit in Saskatoon. It has been used to provide judgement free treatment to 7,000 patients in core neighborhoods annually.

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Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) Chief Mark Arcand reached out to Synergy 8 board chair Troy Davies two years ago, in an effort to bring a similar service to Indigenous communities.

“We see a lack of services in our community,” Cheif Arcand said.

“We have a lot of transportation issues for people to come into the cities to get these types of services.”

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A bus will be retrofitted with equipment and medical staff currently missing from the seven communities part of the STC. It will operate five days a week.

“It will have a fully equipped dental lab with a dentist assistant and a dentist. On the inside of it, it will have a mental health worker,” Davies said about the new bus.

The bus will also have paramedics on board to check on patients in their homes. They’ll be able to create connections with patients, which is especially important for people with mental health issues.

“The workers on the bus are going to build relationships and trust with the community members so they can have those uncomfortable discussions and really get some support to make them healthier and better.”

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Edmonton Oilers player Ethan Bear grew up on the Ochapowace Nation. He will be an ambassador for this project, and said he has seen first hand how difficult it can be for some communities to access medical care.

“Being so far away from most big cities, they don’t have a lot of resources. With this project and with this campaign going on, it makes a lot of sense to me,” Bear said.

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The project is sponsored by a variety of community partners, including Nutrien and the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation. The provincial and federal governments will also fund a combined $2.5 million over the next five years.

Chief Arcand hopes the project’s future success can help inspire similar initiatives to other remote communities in Saskatchewan.

The bus is expected to be operational by Aug. 31, 2021.

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