Year after year, approximately 315 Aboriginal women from the most northern communities of the province have to be evacuated to Montreal to be monitored during their pregnancy and to give birth.

It was the worst nightmare of Paasa Lemire, an Inuk woman originally from Kuujjuaq who gave birth to her first child last year in the metropolis.

Paasa Lemire gave birth to her first child in Montreal. She would have liked to be able to stay in Nunavik, but her medical condition did not allow her.

Photo: Courtesy: Paasa Lemire

It was extremely difficult to come to Montreal for my deliveryrecounts the young mother of 24 years, highlighting the deadlines she has come up against. I try not to complain too much, I understand that everyone has a lot of work, but it was a lot of stress for me to be so far from my family and my community.

The birth itself went well. Ms. Lemire’s son, Declan, is now 10 months old and healthy. Paasa Lemire’s story with the MUHC does not stop there, however, because she is one of the patient partners of the cultural safety project for future mothers which will be deployed at the hospital centre.

The $50,000 Question

Thanks to this new role, Ms. Lemire adds her voice to those of many other Inuit and Cree families consulted by the establishment to review its ways of welcoming and treating mothers evacuated to the South due to an excessively high-risk pregnancy. .

Whereas the MUHC has been caring for evacuated mothers from remote aboriginal communities for many years, why not start a project like this sooner?

Hilah Silver is studying the issue of medical evacuations of Inuit patients as part of her PhD.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Dominique Degré

It’s a question I’ve been thinking about for a long timeconcedes Hillah Silver, one of the nurse clinicians at the MUHC who leads the project and who has a lot of experience with Inuit patients. The question is all the more interesting since the most important measures are those that cost the least to implementshe says.

I had the feeling of failing in my work in the context where they have to come here without being able to respond adequately to all their needs. »

A quote from Hilah Silver, nurse clinician at the McGill University Health Center

All of the measures that will be deployed over the next year will be financed by a donation of $50,000 from the Fondation du MUHC.

It was the death of Joyce Echaquan and the development of the Principle named in her honor – which aims to guarantee fair and non-discriminatory access to health services for Aboriginal people – which was the trigger for the steps taken to bring the project to fruition. .

Mascha Corman-François has worked at the MUHC for six years.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Dominique Degré

I felt helpless before as a nurse with patientsnotes Mischa Corman-François, Ms. Silver’s partner in this adventure.

[Les patients autochtones] ask very clearly what they need. It is up to us to listen to them and fight to implement all of this. And so here we are. »

A quote from Mischa Corman-François, nurse clinician at the McGill University Health Center

One project, four facets

We offer them physical treatments, but we couldn’t do much emotionally and culturally, two aspects that are very little present here.adds Ms. Corman-François, who notably worked in Chisasibi.

Despite the world of differences that separate the Cree and Inuk cultures, some major commonalities have emerged, starting with the community aspect of birth.

At this time, women who come to give birth can only be escorted by one person. They often have to choose between their partner or their mother, for exampleexplains Ms. Corman-François, who hopes to increase the number of companions to three or four people through a pilot project.

The Women’s Health Mission of MUHC will also provide travelers with equipment to store and prepare traditional foods to make the stay in the south more accommodating. There will also be a range of measures put in place in the delivery room – presence of Aboriginal art or elders, better access to traditional birth packages and to the placenta for ceremonies – for mothers-to-be and their relatives.

Items used to put Aboriginal women at ease can be moved from room to room as needed.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Dominique Degré

The hospital will not redevelop entire rooms for this project. The staff will bring the necessary items to the rooms where the patients will be bedridden.

Training and raising awareness of hospital staff will also be at the heart of the project. Senior midwives from the Inukjuak birthing center will come and offer practical training to the staff here and support them during childbirth, breastfeeding, etc.notes for example Hilah Silver.

We also plan to teach a few basic words to the nursing staff. [Les patientes] are almost all fluent in English, but it’s really important to build trust with a patient by speaking a few words that are familiar to them at homebelieves Ms. Corman-François.

The future of this project bodes well, precisely because the other workers in the department already seem very interested, underline the two nurses who are leading the project. Staff make policy, to a large extent […] The right people are here at the right time to bring about this changebelieves Ms. Silver.

Repatriate Services

This cultural security initiative may mark an important step forward in MUHC, but there is still a lot of work to do, according to Ms. Silver. The current draft only encompasses 4 of the 17 recommendations made by the Inuit communities.

Better interpretation services, once in Montreal navigation, improved accommodation services and the ability for Indigenous midwives to participate in hospital births are just a few of the other practices that patients and their relatives have formulated.

But the ultimate goal would be, ideally, that a cultural safety service does not need to exist and that all births can take place in the communities.

Being sick or pregnant already puts you in a vulnerable position. People want to be where they feel safest and that place is home.argues HIlah Silver. And it promotes the smooth running of childbirth too.adds Mascha Corman-François. The safer you feel, the more natural the birth will be instead of requiring intervention.

In the meantime, Paasa Lemire will continue to guide the hospital center in its decisions to support Aboriginal patients. I am very happy that the MUHC recognized that he had to do better for aboriginal women and their families, because for us it is very different.

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