The four Maskwacis chiefs met with Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman April 13 at Maskwacis Health Services building. Here she poses in the centre with (l-r) Wetaskiwin-Camrose MLA Bruce Hinkley, Montana Chief Leonard Standing on the Road, Louis Bull Chief Irvin Bull, health centre director Randy Littlechild, Samson Chief Vernon Saddleback and Ermineskin Chief Craig Makinaw. Photo by Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

Alberta’s health minister meets with Maskwacis chiefs

MLA Sarah Hoffman tours the Maskwacis Health Services last week

There’s potential for more Maskwacis elders to stay close to home as they enter long-term care needs.

This was one of the messages Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman told the four nation chiefs in Maskwacis last week. She visited Maskwacis Health Services and toured the facility April 13 before meeting in a closed session with the chiefs.

Those who were part of the meeting included Montana Chief Leonard Standing on the Road, Louis Bull Chief Irvin Bull, Samson Chief Vernon Saddleback, Ermineskin Chief Craig Makinaw, plus health centre director Randy Littlechild and Wetaskiwin-Camrose MLA Bruce Hinkley.

The tour gave Hoffman a look at the kind of services being provided at the centre. One of the questions posed to Hoffman is how she feels the province can work with Maskwacis while First Nations jurisdiction is considered a federal responsibility.

“There have been a number of initiatives in the past where First Nations were not treated the same way as other municipalities were. Our goal is to change that,” said Hoffman.

One of those ways will be in a soon-to-be announcement of grant programs intended to bring support of long-term care buildings. “We certainly are excited to partner with First Nations.”

“We know that most elders in Alberta are residential school survivors,” she said, adding that the hope is to ensure elders stay close to home and with their culture as they age.

“I think all of us want that. To be able to stay in our communities and age well with our friends and family,” said Hoffman.

She said the grant program will be announced early this spring.

For Maskwacis’s chiefs, meeting with the health minister was a positive first step. Chief Saddleback said it was an opportunity to speak on concerns of residents being over prescribed medicine. “Prescription drug abuse is a big deal,” said Saddleback.

Another area of concern is a need for more doctors. Saddleback pointed out that their hope is to see physicians stay without seeing burnout. A more serious concern is having care for persons with developmental disabilities.

“There is an actual policy by the government saying First Nations people do not qualify for this if they live on reserve,” said Saddleback.

Chief Bull added that he was pleased to meet with the minister. He pointed out that past governments wouldn’t even meet with Maskwacis chiefs. “Having the Premier come out not only to Louis Bull but also to Samson.”

“I really appreciate that they’ve taken that step.”

For Standing on the Road, a big piece to that is having Hinkley as the area MLA. He used to be the principal of Montana School. “He has a relationship with Maskwacis.”

This is something new to Maskwacis residents, said Standing on the Road. “He’s advocating for us because he knows the problems that we’re facing.”

While there were no decisions that came out of the meeting, the chiefs appeared hopeful for the future.

“We’re all neighbours,” added Saddleback. “We’ve got to figure out how to live together.”

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