Stellat’en telehealth services get twice the space next year

A newer and larger home for Stellat’en First Nation’s medical services is slated to rise beside its former self next summer.

Medical office assistant Denise Smith (white) and community health representative Cynthia Munger demonstrate telehealth

Medical office assistant Denise Smith (white) and community health representative Cynthia Munger demonstrate telehealth

A newer and larger home for Stellat’en First Nation’s medical services is slated to rise beside its former self next summer.

Breaking ground in July, the $3-million new health centre is funded in part by regional grants and will be two times the size of its predecessor and is scheduled to finish construction next June, said Chief Archie Patrick. With its foundation to be completed by winter, interior work will continue throughout the cold months.

“This was a triple-wide trailer and has outlived its usefulness,” Patrick said. “We need the space and the community is increasing. [The new centre will allow] better use of the staff that we got.”

For the last four years, primary care at Stellat’en is offered through telehealth — patients book appointments to see doctors that delivery their medical services by teleconference. Specialized instruments for targeted examination and a high-speed Internet connection allowed doctors in Prince George and Lower Mainland to assess, provide advice, and determine whether the patient needs in-person services.

Once a month, Abbotsford-based Dr. John Pawlovich arrives by helicopter at Stellat’en, along with other remote First Nation communities in the region such as Takla Landing, to visit patients, bringing along other specialists as needed — up to 12 at one time, Munger said.

Two Prince George-based doctors also visit patients in the community once a month at different weeks, while a physiotherapist also visits once a month. At the new centre, the teleconference equipment will be a mobile unit to facilitate multiple patient appointments.

“This health centre is a long time coming,” Munger said, as the building is also the home of community health programs. “Here, we also host community kitchens, canning classes, moccasin-making with elders, mammogram assessments, and mental health workshops.”