Sharlene Charlton/ Sto:lo Service Agency Honourees from Sto:lo Health Services stand on cedar boughs after they have been led onto the floor during the honouring ceremony in the Coqualeetza Longhouse in Chilliwack last Thursday.

Accreditation earned by Sto:lo Health Services in Chilliwack

The care that is offered is less clinical, more relaxed yet completely professional

Sto:lo Health Services celebrated a milestone last week as as one of the first First Nations health centres in B.C. to be awarded three-year accreditation.

SHS, under the aegis of Sto:lo Services Agency, was accredited for the maximum term for a first-time applicant.

“We were very pleased,” said Michael Suedfeld, health policy and research analyst for SSA.

A traditional honouring ceremony and luncheon was held for staff in the Coqualeetza Longhouse in Chilliwack last Thursday.

The staff members being honoured were escorted into the longhouse by “receivers” who have a special relationship with them. The honourees are led to stand on cedar boughs during the ceremony.

A little over two years ago SHS became the only First Nations health facility with a primary care clinic available to the general public, as well as targeted services for aboriginal people.

The recognition makes the agency attractive to professionals and potential staff since accreditation means policies are in place and standards are being met, from customer service to dealing with complaints.

“It means they felt everything we’re doing aligns with professional methods, and we met all their parameters,” he said.

One of their goals is to become more widely known in the community for their varied services.

It all began with a vision of providing culturally safe and respectful primary and tertiary services for First Nations community members in the region and grew from there. Having willing partners with a desire to collaborate allowed the project come together.

The health centre takes a “less clinical” approach to their services, from primary health, to youth health, naturopathy, acupuncture and dentistry.

“Also, if people come to us and we don’t provide a particular service, we will help them locate the right place,” said Suedfeld.

The staff make point of providing “culturally safe” care.

“Overall what sets this organization apart is that, as well as a First Nations approach to modern services. We are very relaxed in the way that we work with people.”

It’s not a sterile waiting room at SHS but a “talking room” that helps reduce the “white coat syndrome.”

“The idea is to meet people where they are.”