National Chief congratulates Weeneebayko Area First Nations on historic health deal

    OTTAWA, Sept. 4 /CNW Telbec/ - Today, Assembly of First Nations (AFN)
National Chief Phil Fontaine congratulated First Nations in the Northern
Ontario Weeneebayko region on successfully concluding a deal that will lead to
better health care services.
    The deal, known as the Weeneebayko Area Health Integration Framework
Agreement, integrates federal and provincial health services under a First
Nations community-controlled organization. The agreement will streamline
health care services and give First Nations greater control over them.
    "We've always said First Nations control over health care services is key
to giving our citizens the quality and timely health care they need," National
Chief Phil Fontaine said. "In this case, we're seeing a real investment in
these communities' infrastructure so they can determine how best to meet their
urgent and ongoing needs."
    The deal has been 22 years in the making.
    "It's a historic day. This is what the chiefs visualized more than
20 years ago. We've had a lot of people falling through the cracks, an
epidemic of people losing limbs or going blind from diabetes," said Chief
Jonathon Solomon of the Kashechewan First Nation, one of five First Nations to
sign the deal. "This is going to address the many gaps causing us problems,
plus it's going to invest capital into the community. This model can become a
model for other First Nations."
    AFN Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse also praised the deal.
    "Whenever we see First Nations control over health services increasing,
community health improves," Regional Chief Angus Toulouse said. "It's just
good sense to communities who know first hand what their health care problems
are to use their expertise to design their own health care system."
    The Weeneebayko Area is made up of remote communities along the western
Ontario shores of James Bay and Hudson Bay. Approximately 10,000 predominantly
Cree residents living on and off reserve fall under the agreement.
Traditionally, both federal and provincial governments provide health services
in the area that often resulted in a wasteful overlapping or duplication of
some services, while other needed health services were under-funded or not
offered at all.

    The Agreement will:

    - Integrate federal and provincial health services under a community-
      controlled organization;
    - Provide capital funding for new projects;
    - Incorporate traditional healing practices into health care;
    - Allow cost sharing on certain health care services to create greater
      economies of scale;
    - Amalgamate the federal Weeneebayko General Hospital with the provincial
      James Bay General Hospital.

    Over time, the agreement will evolve to expand public health and mental
health initiatives, demographics and performance standards.
    First Nations covered by the agreement include: the Attawapiskat First
Nation, Fort Albany First Nation, Kashechewan First Nation, and the Weenusk
First Nation. Mocreebec Non-profit Development Corporation and the Corporation
of the town of Moosonee are also parties to the deal.
    The deal was signed late Friday afternoon with provincial and federal
governments represented by Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman and
federal Health Minister Tony Clement.

For further information:

For further information: Bryan Hendry, A/Director of Communications,
(613) 241-6789 ext. 229, cell.: (613) 293-6106,; Karyn
Pugliese, Heath Communications, (613) 241-6789 ext 210, (613) 292-1877,

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