Whitehorse General Hospital in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Whitehorse General Hospital in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Yukon Hospital’s strategy development process makes space for Indigenization

Yukon Hospital Corporation makes room for indigenization of hospitals

Yukon Hospital Corporation has launched its process to develop its next strategic plan for 2022 to 2027. As part of that process, hospital leaders are asking for input and feedback from Yukoners.

“At the heart of it, is our team talking to Yukoners, whether in community meetings, one-on-one, or digitally”, says Inga Petri of Strategic Moves, the company leading the strategy development process.

The process has shifted from the traditional consultative tact, to find ways to directly address reconciliation.

This stems from an internal recognition that the Yukon Hospital Corporation needs to improve its relationship with First Nations people in the territory. In a background newsletter, Laura Salmon, Yukon Hospitals’ Director of First Nations Health Programs, is quoted as saying, “As an organization, we’re in the defining stage. It’s about understanding that despite our sincere efforts to care for people, harm has been done, and we have to take steps to do and be better.”

With this in mind, Petri’s company hired three First Nation consultants to contribute to the planning process and shape its results.

Petri says, “They have been brought in as full team members and will stay with the project from beginning to the end. They will participate at the decision-making table as independent participants.”

They are: Dennis Shorty, elder and citizen of Kaska First Nation in Ross River; Christine Genier, citizen of Ta’an Kwäch’än Council in Whitehorse; and Melaina Sheldon, citizen of Teslin Tlingit First Nation.

Genier says the approach, “in my opinion, it’s nothing but positive.”

“This is the way it could have happened from the beginning. We’ve always been here with our own information that has helped the Indigenous people here survive millennia, in harsh northern conditions.”

Genier says she looks at the process in two ways.

“It’s about our place as people impacted, but also what we bring to the table.”

She describes how people of Indigenous descent are dealing with a lot of things as a response to colonization which impacts health and well-being, both individually and in communities.

“So when you consider generations of families carrying the stress and pain of that specific colonial impact, and what we know about the impact of stress on our physical health. Of course, our voices need to be included in strategic planning of the delivery of health services.”

She also assures that traditional health practices are not just for Indigenous clientele, but that everybody can benefit from an Indigenized approach.

Petri and a spokesperson for the hospital corporation admit that they are not sure how the whole process is going to work yet, but they know that it needs to be done. They expect the initial information gathering process to take six months, and anticipate the strategy to be finished in early 2022.

The strategy will look at the system for the three hospitals in Whitehorse, Dawson City and Watson Lake, but will not ignore the importance of the hospitals’ relationships beyond their doors. Relationships are key.

As Jason Bilsky, Yukon Hospitals’ CEO, said in the background paper: “Decolonization and anti-racism efforts are not easy, but they are necessary for reconciliation. We have to strive constantly to decolonize and do better.”

Contact Lawrie Crawford at lawrie.crawford@yukon-news.com