WCH CONNECTJune 3, 2020

The Centre For Wise Practices in Indigenous Health: COVID-19 pathways & partnerships

  • June 3, 2020
  • BY WCH Staff

4 Directions virtual support wheel

Four directions virtual support hub

As we know, COVID-19 is not the great equalizer and marginalized groups are often at higher risk of infection and spread, with heightened non-COVD related healthcare needs. As with many programs at Women’s College Hospital (WCH), the Centre for Wise Practices in Indigenous Health (CWP-IH) quickly pivoted in response to the pandemic to create a Four Directions Virtual Support Hub and to diversify, develop and implement Indigenous community-led, COVID-19 public health responses for the urban Indigenous community.

Tkaronto (Toronto) has the largest urban Indigenous population in Ontario, and WCH has an ongoing commitment to Indigenous health with strong relationship accords and partnerships with Indigenous organizations throughout the city, including Anishnawbe Health, Na-Me-Res, Seventh Generation Midwives, Well Living House and Waakebiness – Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health. In collaboration with these partners, a warm referral network was created to extend wrap-around support services managing communications and connecting referrals from these organizations and the Call-Auntie Hotline run by Seventh Generation Midwives from Indigenous organizations, housing agencies and programs serving a significant number of Indigenous people.

Working in tandem with the CWP-IH Decision Making Counsel Elders, WCH executive, allies, social workers, the Mobile Assessment Team, (MCAT) the Community Support Squad (CSS) and the CWP-IH has been able to strategically ensure referrals and requests are continually met in a timely manner, historically tenuous relationships are tended and nurtured and cultural safety training initiatives are programmed.

Throughout May and into June, MCAT visited Nishnawbe Homes (Church St. location) and both Na-Me-Res residences. In partnership with Urban Native Ministries, two outdoor living sites at Sanctuary Day Shelter and Holy Trinity Church were also provided testing for staff and residents through direct CWP-IH partnerships and referrals for Indigenous-specific culturally safe care. Following all initial MCAT visit, CSS is providing follow-up and ongoing wrap-around support to staff members of these organizations as the pandemic continues. Aligned with the CWP-IH team, CSS is also providing Infection, Prevention and Control virtual training to staff of the Anishnawbe Health’s new Mobile Street Outreach and Testing team, which launched on June 1.

Beyond these efforts within the community, through the CWP-IH relationship with the Indigenous Primary Health Care Council, WCH staff have been offered funded seats for the ICS San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Program Training. This transformative online training program provides an opportunity for participants to examine the ways in which their own culture, education and history have shaped their practice, especially with regard to stereotypes that impact Indigenous experiences of the health system. Designed specifically for the Ontario context, this foundational training course enables participants to begin an important educational journey – one that will contribute to improved patient experiences, access to health services, and health outcomes for First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

Additionally, the CWP-IH is facilitating bi-weekly relationship-building workshops rooted in base-line cultural safety training sharing personal experiences, stories and Indigenous-specific trauma-informed training points developed from reports that guide and inform the CWP-IH's ongoing strategy, all of which can be found on their WCH microsite. Bi-weekly creative ZOOM workshops streamed live to the CWP-IH's Facebook page with Cree Knowledge Keeper and Student Rosary Spence and direct referrals for counselling sessions (phone or private video chat) with Métis Elder-In-Residence, Senator Constance Simmonds, are also being facilitated.

Looking ahead, the CWP-IH team aims to continue supporting risk reduction and space management strategies, mobile testing, staff training and warm referrals for timely access to non-COVID-related health services and virtual care.

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