ʔaq̓am Community health

After five years of planning, construction of the ʔaq̓am Community Health & Wellness Facility is underway

Artist's rendering of the ?aq?am Community Health & Wellness Facility

Artist's rendering of the ?aq?am Community Health & Wellness Facility — Photo courtesy Michelle Shortridge

Just weeks after the official opening of the new Centex gas station adjacent to the ʔaq̓am Trading Centre, the construction of another significant ʔaq̓am Community project got underway. For close to five years, in partnership with the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), the community has been working on plans for the ʔaq̓am Community Health & Wellness Facility.

“They (the FNHA) have been very involved in helping us,” said Michelle Shortridge, ʔaq̓am Community director of operations and community services. “They help to plan, manage and deliver health services for Indigenous communities throughout B.C. They are helping to make sure the building will meet all of our needs—cultural safety and humility are embedded in their vision of health service delivery.”

Jason Andrew, a council member for the ?aq?am Community, and Mark Fitz-Morris of the First Nations Health Authority stand at the site of the planned ?aq?am Community Health & Wellness Facility. — Photo courtesy Michelle Shortridge

Integrating health and culture

The new building will provide professional space for counsellors, nurses, doctors, disease prevention education and services, the home care program and elders programs. As well, clinics for dental screening, eye exams and other services from visiting doctors and nurse practitioners will be based there.

“We have been providing the services in the past,” said Shortridge, “and this will give the practitioners and clients the space and centralized location to do it more conveniently and efficiently. We’re looking to build our capacity over the next few years and acquire more permanent staff. We hope that being able to provide services here in the community will help to take some of the burden off the ER at the hospital (in Cranbrook).”

On the cultural side, the facility will also have a traditional healing room. This will be a space to accommodate some of the Indigenous cultural aspects pertaining to health and wellness, like traditional medicine education, smudging and preparing traditional medicinal plants.

Michelle Shortridge is the director of operations and community services for the ?aq?am Community. — Marie Milner photo

The specs

The electrical and mechanical requirements of a health care centre are quite complex. Energy efficiency will be a feature of the building, including the potential for solar power.

“It’s been a passion for some of our community members to see cordwood implemented, so we are also doing a cordwood feature wall to test out some of the technology,” said Shortridge.

“One of the architectural features of the building is a teepee out front, which is significant to our community, as our community’s strategic planning is centred around a teepee. Having that visual representation incorporated into the plan for this building is very exciting.”

At just under 464.5 square metres (5,000 square feet), the capital budget for the project is just over $3.2 million, and the rough timeline for its completion is one year. Through the community’s tendering process, Silverado Industries Inc. of Cranbrook was selected as the general contractor.

Funding and the future

The First Nations Health Authority has provided funding for the building, and the community itself is responsible for the programming, services and longevity of the building.

“We have a team for facility management,” said Shortridge, “We are implementing a long-term asset management digital tool to help us manage all of our facilities. We’re looking at all of our housing and infrastructure from a long-term perspective.

“These projects are future-oriented, and that comes from the community’s long-term strategic plan. We’re really excited and looking forward to seeing our community village site reach its potential of being fully developed.”

Marie Milner

Marie Milner is a writer and photographer for Kootenay Business magazine and several other publications. She appreciates the inspiration that she gets during her interviews and hopes to share that inspiration with you. View all of Marie Milner’s articles

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