Cowessess First Nation has demonstrated its commitment to providing quality health care to the community, becoming the first Saskatchewan band to receive accreditation status.
While other First Nation organizations across the province have obtained accreditation (hospitals, tribal councils and treatment centres), Cowessess First Nation is the first band to receive the designation with acceptance of the Accreditation Primer Award in November 2011.
“It is still a new idea and not too many First Nations across Canada have been involved,” said Angie Tanner, manager of Cowessess health, recreation and social development. “When it comes to actual individual bands providing community health centres and community health services to the members there are only three of us (in Saskatchewan), but we were the first ones to get the survey completed and become accredited.”
“It’s a great achievement because it takes us to that next level of providing quality care to our band members,” said band member and Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Vice Chief Dutch Lerat. “It’s certainly going to be used as a model when other First Nations are looking at the quality of services that Cowessess is able to provide.”
Chief Grady Lerat was joined by members of band council and health services staff to make the presentation to band members at the Cowessess Health Forum held on Feb. 13.
Chief Grady Lerat said becoming accredited is about providing better services and being a guide for other First Nation communities.
“We’re taking that lead role,” he said during the forum. “This is about providing quality services for the members of our band.”
Accreditation is the nationally and internationally recognized process used to ensure quality in the planning, management and delivery of health services. Accreditation Canada (the accrediting body) first appealed to First Nation communities in 2009, seeking bands interested in the designation.
Tanner says she was immediately interested in the opportunity to better identify, define and enhance the delivery of health services at Cowessess by meeting predetermined guidelines and standards.
“By becoming accredited we are telling the community that we, as a First Nation health department, are providing services that meet national and international level guidelines,” she said.
“Our job now is to maintain that accreditation. We have to be constantly providing new services and programs within the community because we are going to be surveyed every three years.”
Cowessess will undergo its next primer survey in November 2013.
“When they come back we have to be better than we were last time,” she said. “We have to be continually improving to maintain that accreditation.”
“We don’t have to be at this level, but this is something that we’re doing on our own because we want to provide the best services that we can to the membership of Cowessess,” said councillor and health and social portfolio manager Glenn Pelletier.
Pelletier added becoming accredited will also make it easier to apply for funding and open the doors of opportunity to help broaden the services and programs offered at First Nations.
“With accreditation comes more responsibility, and that’s a good thing,” said Vice Chief Dutch Lerat. “We want to be more responsible for areas of health in our community.”
Thunderchild First Nation and Piopat First Nation are also working their way to achieving accreditation. Thunderchild received their accreditation primer survey in December 2011, and Piapot First Nation is currently awaiting its survey.