James Smith Cree Nation MRI clinic about to come to life
- John Lagimodiere | November 20, 2020
James Smith Cree Nation Chief Wally Burns thinks that his First Nations namesake would be pleased with the opening of his Nations MRI and education clinic in Saskatoon.
“Oh, James Smith would be very happy. Especially with the 7th generation,” said Chief Burns. “Looking at the whole perspective of reality and the generations that have come and gone and look where we are now. We have to make sure that economic development is there and working with our people to benefit our community. This is a first of its kind for First Nations and I’m very happy it has come to this.”
The project includes a myriad of partners, without which, Chief Burns said, the project wouldn’t have been feasible. “We are pleased that our workings and collaboration with the Government of Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan Health Authority is bringing benefits to the people of all Nations in the Province of Saskatchewan,” said Chief Wally Burns. “This is a truly different prospective and partnership which ensures together with the many partners involved, we can all move forward in the trust and reconciliation process.”
The National Medical Imaging Clinic and Education and Research Centre, located in Market Mall in Saskatoon, will provide MRI services for patients as well as Computer Tomography (CT), X-rays, and ultrasound. The Education and Research Centre, operating out of the same facility, will pioneer research into medical imaging techniques in partnership with Canada-wide educational institutions and Siemens Healthineers. The clinic will employ around 15 full time and 20 part time staff. Orientation starts next week and the clinic opens in December.
Priscilla McLean is going to be one of those employees. The James Smith member has spent the last few years of her 30-year career nursing in Pukatawagan. Now she is trading her two-week shifts including an eight-hour drive and flight for an easy commute across town. “This is a much-needed facility. We are going to have specialists and great service,” said McLean. “I’m so happy to not travel now. And I’m really proud of our community.”
Dragan Racic is the President and CEO, National Medical Imaging Clinic and Education and Research Centre and he stressed the importance of the training to be done at the clinic. “This collaboration also involves a major educational component to use the newly purchased diagnostic imaging systems to train and educate current and future users in the area of medical imaging, providing continuing education and professional development programs for practitioners,” said Racic of his education partners the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, NAIT and Mitchener Institute. “We hope we can inspire youth from the James Smith Cree Nation and other Indigenous partners in Saskatchewan and Canada-wide to pursue post-secondary education and choose jobs in the health sciences fields, focusing on medical imaging.”
The clinic isn’t the only good news for the people of James Smith Cree Nation. In the last year several of their land claims have been accepted and the future looks bright. But to Chief Burns, it is more than just settlement money. “I look at what we can build with the settlements. I look at the benefits for our members and the community. They got me here and I work hard to make sure they benefit. The elders, the youth and mothers and fathers,” said Chief Burns. “But from the bottom of my heart I thank the people of Saskatchewan our First Nations people as we see the future working together. This is the first MRI clinic. We want to add more.”