A dedicated space in the Wetaskiwin Hospital and Care Centre that will provide a place of spiritual healing for Indigenous patients and their families. The space, located just inside the hospital’s main entrance, provides a quiet, comfortable atmosphere where patients and families can gather with an Elder for prayer and traditional ceremonies.
“The addition of this healing room helps create a culturally safe space for Indigenous patients and their families while in hospital,” says Rick Wilson, Minister of Indigenous Relations and MLA for Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin. “I am pleased to see the collaboration between Alberta Health Services, our local Indigenous communities and the local Health Foundation in making a safe space where traditional cultural values and beliefs can be practiced.”
In 2015 AHS first created a cultural space on the hospital’s third floor to provide Indigenous patients and families a place to gather for prayer and ceremonies, including smudging. When Home Care moved to a community-based site, additional space became available to expand within the hospital in order to better serve patients, families and the Indigenous community.
The new healing room was completed in the fall of 2021, with its opening delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides space for individuals and family groups alike to gather in prayer and to meet with Elders and other supports in a culturally respectful space that promotes holistic healing.
“The opening of the new healing room is another important step in ensuring the health care system is welcoming to all Albertans,” says Jason Copping, Minister of Health.
“Access to high-quality, culturally safe health care for Indigenous Albertans is a priority for Alberta’s government and AHS.”
The original space will remain on the third floor to continue to provide room for smudging as needed.
“Spaces such as this provide a culturally safe home away from home,” says Marty Landrie, Executive Director with AHS’ Indigenous Wellness Core. “This room is a place that can help provide a balance between the highly clinical world of a hospital and spiritual well-being for patients.
“This space also allows families to provide support in a culturally meaningful way.”
The healing room is one of two in the Central Zone. The first opened at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre in January 2014. In both cases, planning for the spaces included the input and feedback of patients, families, the Indigenous Wellness Core and partners from Indigenous communities.
A generous contribution of $75,000 from the Wetaskiwin Health Foundation also helped bring the vision for the new healing room to life.
“The Wetaskiwin Health Foundation is grateful for the opportunity to play a role in such a wonderful and meaningful space,” says John Strong, Executive Director of the Wetaskiwin Health Foundation. “This space is a gift from all those who support the Foundation and contributed to this meaningful project. We are grateful for the support of the community and our donors who have made this possible.
“We hope it will be a place of healing and peace for all those who enter.”
The healing room will be accessible 24 hours a day through nursing staff, as well as through local advisors with the Indigenous Wellness Core in the Central Zone. The advisors are available to all Indigenous people who access health care, including Status and Non-Status First Nations, Métis and Inuit. They work to address a wide range of challenges while working with clients, including language barriers, cultural differences, transportation issues and system navigation.
In addition to complementing the work of the Indigenous Wellness Core, the healing room also helps further cultural awareness within the hospital and beyond.
“We are very pleased to be able to show our support and respect for the health and traditions of the Indigenous communities through this space,” says Janice Stewart, Chief Zone Officer with AHS’ Central Zone. “With the voices of those we care for, and support of the Foundation and their generous donors, going into this project, it is our hope that this space will help patients and families feel safe, welcome and supported within the hospital.”
The Wetaskiwin Hospital and Care Centre serves an area with 35,000 residents, including the community of Maskwacis to the south.