A Commitment to Health and Well-Being
Pandemic and Rail Accident Spur Action
Two significant events in the early 1900s contributed to the creation of the first hospital in Sioux Lookout. The global influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 forced the townspeople to turn homes, schools and churches into hospitals to care for the sick. In 1920, a tragic rail accident occurred just outside of the community. Three badly injured railway men were brought to town where they died on the station platform waiting for transportation to Winnipeg. Immediately following this tragedy, a committee was formed to build a hospital. By March 1921, $8,000 was raised. Farlinger’s Mill donated half the lumber for the hospital, with the other half being split between the Twin Falls Lumber Co. and the town.
Grand Opening of Sioux Lookout’s First Hospital
In July 1921 the sod was turned for the new hospital. The Sioux Lookout General Hospital opened in September 1922 on Front Street.
It was a two-storey, 16-bed building. The men's ward was located on the first floor and the operating room, maternity ward and women's ward was located on the second floor. Passers by were recruited off the street to act as orderlies to carry the men up and down the stairs to and from surgery.
Responding to the Tuberculosis Outbreak and Rapid Population Growth
In the 1940s tuberculosis in surrounding First Nation communities reached epidemic levels. In 1949, the federal government built and operated a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients from northern First Nations. This was later converted into the Sioux Lookout Indian Hospital which became known, in the 1970s, as the Sioux Lookout Zone Hospital.
By 1949 the Sioux Lookout General Hospital was regularly filled to capacity and, in 1951, a new hospital with 40 beds and vastly improved facilities, opened for the citiziens of Sioux Lookout.
Hunger Strike at the Sioux Lookout Zone Hospital
In January 1988, five men from Sandy Lake First Nation - Josias Fiddler, Peter Goodman, Allen Meekis, Peter Fiddler and Luke Mamakeesic – went on a hunger strike to draw attention to years of worsening health care and deteriorating relations between First Nations communities and the Medical Services Branch of Health and Welfare Canada. The native leaders and the federal government committed to improve health services and the two-day hunger strike ended.
Developing a Process to Improve Health Services
A health panel comprised of Ted Scott, Wally McKay and Dr. Harry Bain conducted a review of the state of health care in the northern communities. The Scott-McKay-Bain Health Panel – From Here to There: Steps Along the Way report was released in May 1989. The panel presented their report to the Sioux Lookout Zone Chiefs in March 1989. Of the report recommendations, the Chiefs accepted only one - the development of an aboriginal health authority.
Endorsement of a Formal Agreement for an Amalgamated Hospital
In 1990, Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) appointed a Chiefs Negotiating Unit which completed an assessment of hospital and community-based health care services.
In 1991, the Negotiating Unit presented their report to the Sioux Lookout Zone Chiefs, who then endorsed a formal agreement for an amalgamated regional hospital so there would no longer be separate hospitals for First Nations people and the residents of Sioux Lookout.
From 1992 to 1997, the Hospital Services Negotiating Unit, comprised of representatives from NAN, Municipality of Sioux Lookout, Ontario and Canada, worked toward the ultimate goal - the Sioux Lookout Four Party Hospital Services Agreement, which provided for a new, amalgamated hospital and expanded services.
Incorporation of the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority
Following recommendations of the Scott-McKay-Bain Report, the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority (SLFNHA) was created and incorporated in 1993.
SLFNHA offers many programs and services including the Canadian Prenatal Nutrition Program, the Developmental Services Program, the Tuberculosis Control Program, Telemedicine, First Nations and Inuit Health Information System and the Primary Health Care Unit. SLFNHA also has counselling services under Nodin Child and Family Intervention Services, as well as the Client Services Department that manages transportation and accommodations for clients visiting Sioux Lookout.
Construction of the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre
In accordance with the Sioux Lookout Four Party Hospital Services Agreement, the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre was incorporated in 2002 and began implementation of the Agreement. The Board of Directors - comprised of ten First Nations members and five southern community representatives - began by consolidating hospital services between the Sioux Lookout District Health Centre and the Sioux Lookout Zone Hospital. Construction of a new health facility began in 2008.
“Meno Ya Win” is an Anishinaabe term that connotes health, wellness, well-being and individual spiritual, mental, emotional and physical wholeness.
SLMHC provides health services to all residents within Sioux Lookout and the surrounding area, including the Nishnawbe-Aski communities north of Sioux Lookout, the Treaty #3 community of Lac Seul First Nation, Hudson, Pickle Lake and Savant Lake.
Opening of Jeremiah McKay Kabayshewekamik Hostel
During the signing of the 1997 agreement, the hostel was deemed to be an essential service for First Nations and the federal government promised to ensure funding for a new building.
Construction of the hostel began in 2008 and the facility adopted the name: Jeremiah McKay Kabayshewekamik.
Jeremiah McKay was a respected member of his community, Kasabonika Lake First Nation, and lobbied for many causes throughout his life. He played an integral role on the Chiefs Committee on Health and was on the Chiefs’ negotiating team to build a new hospital in Sioux Lookout.
Kabayshewekamik means “a place to sleep and rest” in Anishinaabe.
Jeremiah McKay Kabayshewekamik has 100 beds and amenities that include dietary and laundry services, a kitchen, a family lounge and a children’s play area.
State-of-the-Art Health Centre Opens
Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre’s state-of-the-art health care facility is located within a park-like setting. The new building, with 60 inpatient beds, visually, and functionally, integrates the rich history, traditions and cultural backgrounds of the First Nations and non-native people of our area. The design opens to the four cardinal directions welcoming all peoples and communities and emphasizing the relationship of the parts to the whole, of the modern to the traditional.
Service improvements include:
- Medical Withdrawal Management (Detox)
- CT Scan
- Palliative Care Area
- Six dialysis stations (managed by TBRHSC)
- Visiting Specialist Clinic
- Ambulatory/Diagnostic Care
- Gathering and Ceremonial spaces