Area First Nations donate big bucks to health care

The funding for the new hemodialysis unit at La Verendrye hospital here has been cemented after the Aboriginal Dialysis Initiative donated $450,000 to the project at a presentation yesterday morning at the Red Dog Inn.
With $350,000 given to the “Care Close to Home” campaign, and another $100,000 to Riverside Health Care Facilities Inc., the donation will absorb the balance of the funding awarded by the province two weeks ago.
And Couchiching Chief Eugene McPherson, who along with Chief Jim Leonard of Rainy River First Nations was instrumental in getting the drive going early this year, stressed the fundraising won’t stop.
“To ensure this keeps going, we’ve pledged to raise $250,000 or more in the next five years to provide the care and education our people need,” he said.
“We’ve shown that through First Nations communities working together, we can succeed,” echoed Chief Leonard. “This is just the beginning of our commitment to Riverside, and we’d like to remain active in working with them.”
Campaign chairman John McTaggart said he was thrilled with the donation. “We, as a district, are coming together to provide care for those who need it,” he stressed.
Riverside CEO Wayne Woods noted how much the donation was appreciated. “It’s not only about the money but the effort put behind this. This has been 10 years in the making,” he remarked.
“We had to get behind the ears of those writing the cheques. We had to get services back to the community,” Woods noted. “And I hope this is the beginning of future partnerships.”
Chief Leonard also was given a plaque for his leadership in getting the Aboriginal Dialysis Initiative started.
But upon accepting it, he stressed it could only happen through partnerships between area First Nations, the United Native Friendship Centre and Sunset Country Métis, and the hard work of core committee members, including Donna Hays, Todd Young, David Paull, Kelly Olson, Earl Klyne, Janet Lee, Al Hunter, Gladys McPherson, and Clint Geyshick.
On hand to offer a testimonial on the importance of having this unit in the district was Rudy Bruyere, who’s been undergoing dialysis treatments for the past two years.
“I’d like to thank you for giving me a new lease on life,” related the former Treaty #3 health director. “Not in my life did I expect to see the chiefs stepping up to the plate, and taking the bull by the horns, to achieve something like this.
“I remember when they told me I needed the treatments, I’d never thought I’d become one of the stats. You always look at other people and think “Why me?” he added.
While he went to Thunder Bay for treatments for a while, more recently he has been taking home treatments (peritoneal), which he has to administer five times a day.
“It enables you to go hunting or fishing. But I hate it when I go on a little trip, and I have to bring along all these boxes with me,” said Bruyere.
While he may get a kidney transplant in the future, Bruyere maintained the dialysis unit here not only will make his life a lot easier, but raise awareness of the treatment–and diabetes–in general.
“Right now, a lot of people on dialysis seem to be in the closet–they don’t want to talk about it,” he said. “I don’t want to be in the situation I’m in, and I think [people] need to get educated about diabetes.”
Meanwhile, Woods noted planning for the dialysis unit is well underway, and it may be completed and operational by May 1, 2001.
“The architects are working on it, work may start by the third week in November, after we get the plans approved,” he said yesterday. “And today we have a conference call with Thunder Bay hospital.
The unit will be run by both experienced staff from Thunder Bay and staff from here, who will receive 20 weeks in training.
Once operational, 24 patients per week will benefit from its services. Woods noted Riverside knows of 16 district patients currently in need of the dialysis treatments.
The treatments will be available six days a week. Dialysis patients now take treatments three times a week, usually in Thunder Bay.