Indian Country Today reports that First Nations in British Columbia Canada have taken the next step toward health-care autonomy by signing a groundbreaking agreement to oversee their own health care services, rather than having the federal government do it.
“We will be the first in Canada to take over province-wide health service delivery from the federal government,” said Grand Chief Doug Kelly. “We will work closely with the provincial health system to enable it to better meet First Nations health needs and priorities.”
Federal health minister Leona Aglukkaq called the signing “an important and historic milestone” for the government, British Columbia First Nations and the province.
“This will streamline administration, encourage the integration of the federally and provincially funded health services and allow health-care decisions to be made closer to home,” she said at the signing. “I am so proud that our hard work has finally paid off.”
Under the agreement, the British Columbia First Nations Health Society (FNHS) will assume responsibility over the next two years for aboriginal health care and planning, which is currently administered by the federal government.
The agency will deliver on-reserve health programs such as maternal and child health initiatives, mental-health and addiction services, as well as primary care. It will also incorporate First Nations’ cultural knowledge, beliefs, values and models of healing into the design and delivery of health programs.
The change will happen gradually, with the federal government transferring $380 million a year to the new agency over the next two years, the amount it spends annually on aboriginal health care in British Columbia. The amount will fluctuate depending on demographic and cost factors. The provincial government is providing $83.5 million as part of its commitments under the framework agreement. In addition the federal government is giving $17 million to British Columbia First Nations to help with the transfer of services.
In June, British Columbia chiefs at a First Nations Health Council meeting voted 146–21 in favor of a resolution to take over health-care-service delivery from the federal government.