Sioux Lookout

Integrating healthcare in Ontario's North

“Meno ya win” means health, wellness, well-being; a state of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wholeness. The Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre, a new, innovative healthcare facility centres all of its services on this understanding.

Sioux Lookout, known AS “the hub of the north”, is a town in Northwestern Ontario which provides essential healthcare services to over 30,000 people situated in 29 remote First Nations communities. This unique area of the country is rich with diverse languages and cultures, and there was a recognized need for healthcare services to improve. There was a need for sensitivity, respect, and awareness of the unique needs of this segment of the population. The Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre is a full-service, fully-accredited facility dedicated to the special needs and concerns of the region’s distinct populations.
In 1997, a four-party agreement was signed between the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario, the Municipality of Sioux Lookout and Nishnawbe-Aski Nation to merge the resources and responsibilities of the area’s existing hospitals, in order to best protect and enhance health care for the district. The project, operated under the Public Hospitals Act and fully funded by the Province of Ontario, is finally completed this year, on schedule with the plans.

On October 15, 2010, representatives of the four-party agreement joined a large crowd of dignitaries, officials, and citizens to celebrate the completion of this monumentous project. Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, commented, “This new hospital is a shining example of what can be accomplished when we work together. The new hospital in Sioux Lookout will combine the best state-of-the-art care with traditional First Nations concepts of health, healing and wellness. We are driving quality and value into every corner of health care through our Excellent Care for All Strategy, and the new Meno Ya Win Health Centre will be part of delivering that excellent care.”

Services and facilities

The $130 million full-service medical facility spans 140,000 square feet and has over sixty available beds; 41 acute care beds and a 20-bed extended care facility. This achievement represents a better future of healthcare for the Municipality of Sioux Lookout and the 29 Northern First Nation communities. The facility operates at six locations under one administration, and includes a Community Counseling and Addiction Services Program. Some of the many health and wellness-related services available include ambulatory care, specialty and day clinics, chemotherapy, cardio pulmonary clinics, complex continuing care,  obstetrics, and surgery; amongst others. The facility is equipped with all the necessities to support the population’s needs, and will continue to grow with new technology and additions; the next anticipated is a mammography unit and a CT scanner.

Community counselling & addiction services

First Nation’s people experience higher than average rates of addiction and mental illness. Rates of mental health problem such as suicide and depression are significantly higher—2.1 times the general population rate—in many Aboriginal communities. The urgent and visible rate of alcohol and drug abuse amongst Northern Ontario aboriginal populations was a crucial consideration in the facility’s planning. An integral part of providing services to the community of Sioux Lookout is providing services to those disadvantaged in a compassionate, culturally sensitive manner. The facility offers detoxification and withdrawal services, as well as counselling, education, assessment, treatment and referrals for persons experiencing mental health and addictions issues. There is also a visiting psychiatrist to the facility six times a year.

Traditional healing

The SLMHC has a particular mandate among Ontario hospital as it serves a largely Aboriginal population. For the first time, there are services available which integrate western medicine with traditional healing. The Traditional Healing, Medicines, Foods and Supports Program offers patients support and choice in healing, maintaining a culturally sensitive approach in its practice. This includes such practices as the integration of elders into the healing process, the use of traditional aboriginal foods or medicines, and linguistic translation services. Stan Beardy, Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief, said, “The hopes and dreams of many years have finally become a reality.  All people of Sioux Lookout, and our northern communities, will benefit from this new centre.”

Economic development

The new hospital construction offers a significant boost to the economy of Sioux Lookout, not only directly through the facility itself but the ventures with which it can associate. The opportunity for the overall economic development for the region is an exciting prospect for those involved. The Mayor of the municipality of Sioux Lookout, Kathy Poling, commented at the opening, “The new hospital represents a significant boom to the economy of our community, not only through direct programs but ancillary ones as well.” Not only is the hospital a positive economic driver for the hub of the North, but this investment is crucial to the combined efforts of the region to prosper. Poling comments, “More importantly the new hospital is symbolic of the special relationship that Sioux Lookout has with the communities of the north and surrounding area.”

The Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre represents a new beginning for the development of many communities in Northern Ontario. This innovative healthcare facility combines complete western medical services with holistic, culturally sensitive healing practices. We anticipate a vital future for Sioux Lookout—and all of the communities it serves.