Health transfer to aboriginal authority brings vision to life, says grand chief

Health programs once administered by Health Canada are now the responsibility of the First Nations Health Authority

Grand Chief Doug Kelly joined federal and provincial health ministers at the Hyatt Regency in Vancouver Monday morning for a history-making celebration.

They were formally recognizing the transfer of aboriginal health service delivery responsibility to a new aboriginal led entity in B.C.

Health programs and services formerly administered by Health Canada are now the responsibility of the First Nations Health Authority, according to a new framework agreement signed by the three parties.

“Now is the time for B.C. First Nations to take our rightful place, determining our own health outcomes and what wellness means to us,” said Grand Chief Kelly of Sto:lo Tribal Council, who is chair of the First Nations Health Council.

The First Nations Health Authority will deliver health programs and services in B.C. to aboriginals living on-reserve and off.

It’s everything from primary care in the rural areas, to mental health and addictions as well as environmental health and research, and they’ll be partnering with the province as well.

The idea is to close gaps in health services with new partnerships, close collaboration and innovation through coordination.

It took years of collaboration to achieve, the grand chief told the Progress recently.

“I would like to commend our federal, provincial, health authority, and other partners on the collaborative work to date and we look forward to our service delivery role, bringing to life our vision of healthy, self-determining and vibrant B.C. First Nations children, families and communities,” said Kelly in the press release.

It’s actually a first in Canada, and could be a model for other provinces.

“Today marks the beginning of a new era in health care for B.C. First Nations,” said Minister Ambrose. “The transfer of responsibilities empowers First Nations while promoting a better, more responsive, integrated and innovative model of health service delivery. This agreement will contribute to the development of healthier and more sustainable B.C. First Nations communities.”

The new approach enables the FNHA to incorporate First Nations’ cultural knowledge, beliefs, values, and models of healing into the design and delivery of health programs that better meet the needs of aboriginal communities.

It’s a milestone on several historic levels.

“We are empowering First Nations all across the province with the goal of improving the health status of all British Columbians,” said B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake.

The transfer is supported by the Canada Funding Agreement which authorizes the transfer of roughly $380 million a year, for a total of $4.7 billion from July 1, 2013 until March 31, 2023. The amount is based on federal costs for First Nations programs and services in British Columbia with an escalator to reflect expected population and cost increases.

By the end of 2012-13, the B.C. government will have provided $27 million in funding to support the framework agreement. This funding is part of the overall $100-million commitment that will be provided to the First Nations Health Authority up to 2020 to implement the agreement.

Parties signed a framework agreement, which concluded negotiations that began in 2006 and included federal government, the province and B.C. First Nations, when they signed the First Nations Health Plan: Memorandum of Understanding.

The new arrangement supports better health outcomes for B.C. First Nations through a new governance structure and a new relationship among the three parties.

Details of the 2012 Tripartite Health Partnership Accord :