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Stoney Health Services hosts ground-breaking blessing for centre expansion

Stoney Nakoda First Nation elders, dignitaries, Stoney Health staff and others were in attendance April 11 for a ground-breaking blessing to celebrate the announcement long-awaited expansion of the Stoney Health Centre

The Stoney Health Centre in Morley is receiving a much-needed $11 million expansion, an initiative that has been four years in the making.

Stoney Nakoda First Nation chiefs, elders, dignitaries, as well as Stoney Health Services staff, and community members took part in a ground-breaking blessing on  April 11 to celebrate the addition, which is expected to officially break ground later this month and will be complete in about two years time. 

"Today was a very special day for us in the community of Morley in Stoney Nakoda Nation," said Aaron Khan, Stoney Health Services CEO and executive director. "It's a very happy day for the people in our community."

The expansion will nearly double the size and capacity of the existing health centre, according to Khan, allowing for the provision of more services within Stoney Nakoda First Nation. 

"With this expansion, we'll be able to expand our existing programs and have more spaces to serve the needs of our growing community," he said. 

"We want to provide accessible care here in our community, but this is not a hospital, it's a health centre."

Khan added that people will still need to go to Calgary for critical care and other acute programs such as chemotherapy.

One of Stoney Health's long-term goals is to continue working with Alberta Health Services to provide dialysis services. A dialysis unit has been designed into the new facility. 

The expansion of the health centre is being funded by Indigenous Services Canada. 

Khan said Stoney Health, which serves a community of about 6,000 people, sees around 35,000 patients annually. 

“The community has grown significantly since the Health Centre first opened its doors in 1998 and must grow to continue to meet this and future demand of our people,” said Chiniki First Nation Chief Aaron Young.

Along with a steadily growing population, health care needs and programs now exceed the physical capacity of the Stoney Health Centre. According to a news release, there has been a 215 per cent growth in demand from 2017 to 2020 alone.

The current facility offers triage, primary care, medical examinations, mental health services, home care, x-ray, and laboratory services, plus meeting and consultation rooms and administrative spaces, a pharmacy and optometry and dental offices. 

"Elders, seniors and some younger Nation members are challenged with complex medical needs that require and deserve health care provided locally, in a culturally supportive environment," states the news release. "Stoney Health can – and will – continue to support their needs, as we grow in to this new space."

Khan said they are always expanding on the health centre's existing programs to hire professionals, tech workers, and community members.

"The more the expansion happens, the more we grow our program's services, the more we will need more workforce," he said. "So definitely, this will have a positive impact on the employment within our community as well."

The day began with a traditional Stoney ceremony, which included a blessing led by several pipe holders. That was followed by a drum circle and singers, who performed several honour songs, accompanied by powwow dancers.