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First ever Indigenous Advisory Working Group supports new Terrace hospital design

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a shot of the hospital under construction with a large yellow crane in the background
Construction of the new Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace started in June 2021. The new facility will be more than twice the size of the current facility, with the numbers of beds almost doubling, going from 44 to 78.

With a budget of more than $600 million, the Mills Memorial Hospital (MMH) Replacement project, which includes the building of a new hospital in Terrace, is the largest capital project Northern Health has undertaken to date.

Sharon Bryant of Kitsumkalum First Nation (right front) and Isabelle McKee of Kitselas First Nation (left front) are both members of the MMH Indigenous Advisory Working Group. Here they are pictured at a ground blessing ceremony on site last spring. In the back row are Gerald Nyce of the Kitselas Health department, and Northern Health Board Chair Colleen Nyce.
Sharon Bryant of Kitsumkalum First Nation (right front) and Isabelle McKee of Kitselas First Nation (left front) are both members of the MMH Indigenous Advisory Working Group. Here they are pictured at a ground blessing ceremony on site last spring. In the back row are Gerald Nyce of the Kitselas Health department, and Northern Health Board Chair Colleen Nyce.

Northern Health engages with Indigenous groups, communities, and patients in many ways. And to date, all Northern Health capital projects, including the MMH project, have been supported by Capital Advisory Committees, which include representatives from local First Nations.

The MMH project, however, is the first Northern Health capital project to be supported by an Indigenous Advisory Working Group (IAWG) specific to the project.  

“Being part of the IAWG and being able to provide feedback on plans has been wonderful. It’s exciting to be able to help create a safe space, share our culture and the ways it may be best represented in the new hospital. Unity and input from the group will help Indigenous patients feel safer and more welcome at the new facility,” said Sharon Bryant, a member of the Kitsumkalum Nation and the MMH Indigenous Advisory Working Group.  

The MMH IAWG was formed in the spring of 2021. Members include representatives from the Nations of Kitsumkalum, Kitselas, Nisga’a and Gitxsan, Metis Nation of BC, Kermodei Friendship Society, and First Nations Health Authority.

The purpose of the MMH Indigenous Advisory Working Group is to have a table for Indigenous input into design aspects of the project. The group provides input pertaining to considerations unique to Indigenous culture and practices to ensure the new hospital will be culturally safe, welcoming, respectful, and relevant.

Aspects of the project that may be influenced by this group include, but are not limited to, patient experience, culturally appropriate design, artwork, signage, and other local considerations of interest that arise as the group meets.

“Northern Health is tremendously grateful for the participation of the members of this group. Their input is extremely valuable and will help Northern Health in its ongoing desire and commitment to have culturally safe care occurring in culturally safe facilities,” said Ciro Panessa, Northern Health Chief Operating Officer, Northwest Health Service Delivery Area.

The MMH Replacement project consists of the building of a new hospital in Terrace and a new Seven Sisters facility, which provides a mental health rehabilitation and recovery program on the same property as the Terrace hospital. Among many other exciting new features, the new hospital will be more than double the size of the current facility, with almost double the number of beds, double the number of psychiatry beds, and double the number of emergency department treatment spaces.

In addition to the IAWG, the MMH Replacement Project is also supported by a Community Advisory Working Group, which also has representatives from local First Nations.

Input from the CAWG and IAWG is filtered upwards. It first goes to the MMH Capital Advisory Committee. Then it goes to the MMH Project Steering Committee who, in collaboration with the Project Board, balances the complexities of a capital building project with the needs and wants of the local and regional communities and residents.

Let’s Talk MMH is where you’ll find everything you want to know about the Mills Memorial Hospital Replacement Project and all the groups we’ve described.