The role of the Indigenous Hospital Liaison was introduced to Chinook Regional Hospital (CRH) in December 2015, through Alberta Health Services’ Indigenous Health Program in South Zone.
The first liaison worker, Suzan Heavyshields, was tasked with introducing the program to staff and patients. The role involves:
- helping patients and their families feel comfortable while the hospital
- providing support during their hospital stay
- making referrals for on-reserve (Blood Tribe and Piikani Nation) and off-reserve (Lethbridge and Area)
- advocating for patients and families
- helping plan and support patients’ discharge from hospital
- talking to health-care providers about Indigenous cultural, spiritual practices and ceremonies, (e.g., Sweetgrass Ceremonies, Elder Services) if required during a patient’s stay at the hospital.
The Golden Eagle Ceremony Room, which was inaugurated in June of 2016, has been a complement to First Nation, Metis and Inuit patients and their families at the hospital. The Ceremony Room is a ventilated space which allows patients and their families to have a smudging ceremony. The smudging ceremony encompasses the burning of the Sweetgrass, along with prayer.
A second Indigenous Hospital Liaison (Roxie Vaile) came onboard in June 2016 at CRH, which allowed for the service to expand. The Indigenous Hospital Liaisons are available Monday and Tuesday, 8:00 am to 4:15 pm, and expanded hours on Wednesdays through Sunday till 8 pm.
This month, a third Indigenous Hospital Liaison, at Cardston Hospital, (Dolly Creighton) will be joining the South Zone’s Indigenous Health Program.
In the near future, Traditional Wellness Services will be offered at CRH and throughout South Zone. Traditional Wellness Services can provide cultural and spiritual supports to patients and their family, provide services at acute care sites (South Zone) that include smudging and prayer, seeing patients at AHS sites or other locations as approved, performing most types of ceremonies and leading traditional practices and activities, and providing educational sessions to staff and members and community.