Actions and Commitments

Call to Action # 18: Health (18-24)

Officials at Weeneebayko hospital receive cash for new hospital

June 17, 2024

Hospital in crisis receives money that was left out of the federal budget

New hospital campus

The dire condition of Weeneebayko General Hospital has patients travelling as far as Kingston, Ontario, for medical services. Photo courtesy: Assembly of First Nations 


APTN News: The federal government announced $1.2 billion towards a new medical facility for northern Ontario on Monday.

“We have seen a growing number of Canadians who want to see us make good on or promises to Indigenous people,” said Patty Hajdu, minister of Indigenous services at a news conference in Ottawa. The money is on top of $200 million already announced.

In late in May, the Weeneebayko General Hospital said it was in need of completely new facilities. Weeneebayko Health Authority (WAHA) staff and leadership said their medical facilities are crumbling and community members are being sent to southern cities for medical services.

The hospital serves five coastal communities on the James Bay coast, but officials say they struggle to provide specialty services.

“Having a baby is a service that should be available in our own hospital, in our own community,” said Dr. Elaine Innes, the chief of staff with WAHA.

Lynne Innes, vice president of clinical services and chief nursing executive for the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority, said the 75-year-old WGH has “surpassed its intended lifespan.”

In 2007, the federal government signed the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority Integration Framework Agreement. Included in the campus are a hostel, staff housing, an Elder care centre, a new hospital and an acute care centre.

The Weeneebayko hospital didn’t get money in the federal budget delivered on April 16.

Innes said she got word of the federal funding on Friday.

“This is an incredible step forward in the health and well-being of people in our region,” she said. “Canada’s full commitment demonstrates that our voices have been heard and that the federal government recognizes the urgent need for modern and culturally safe health care facilities in our region,

“The Ontario government has been fully committed to our redevelopment project from the beginning.”

The new hospital campus on Moose Factory Island will replace the crumbling Weeneebayko Hospital, originally built as a tuberculosis facility in the 1950s.

The Assembly of First Nations National Chief, Cindy Woodhouse-Nepinak, was at the announcement on Parliament Hill and welcomed the news.

Funding Weeneebayko hospital
Minister of Indigenous services, Patty Hajdu, and Assembly of First Nations National Chief, Cindy Woodhouse Nepinak announce federal funding for WAHA on Monday. Photo: Kerry Slack

“This marks a significant step forward in fulfilling a longstanding commitment,” she said. “This will finally accommodate the needs of the people in the region who will now have access to top tier health care that every person in this country deserves.”

Provincial Health Minister, Sylvia Jones, travelled to Moose Factory to attend the announcement to the community and said she hopes to see the new facility provide access to the same standard of care as the rest of Canada.

“Once complete the new 36 bed hospital located in Moosonee will accommodate culturally sensitive program space and growth in a facility that meets current design standards,” said Jones.

“WAHA serves over 12,000 people along the western James Bay and Hudson Bay. It Is the oldest unrenovated hospital in Canada. This hospital is critical to delivering care in the community. The people here have waited too long and have to travel too far to access the care they need,” she said.

According to WAHA officials and the federal government, construction will take some time but Ottawa has committed to helping during that time as well.

“We will make sure that while this hospital centre is being built that we will be supporting maintenance on the current building to stretch the life of that building until the new facility is ready,” said Hajdu.

Innes said over the next few weeks, the WAHA will be working “working with federal officials to finalize specific timelines and the financial details.”

“This will ensure the next phase of construction can begin without further delay.”

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Author(s) 

Kerry Slack, kslack@aptn.ca