December 20, 2013

Dear Northerners,

There is something about the Holiday Season that brings a sense of community and closeness. For those of us who celebrate Christmas, our religious beliefs and traditions are central to our celebrations. But for all of us, this time of year is special-- the magic created by the lights, smell of fresh pine indoors, the hugs and well wishes of friends and family,  and of course the music.

Louise with Lionel Bird

One of my favourite carols is The Twelve Days of Christmas, first printed in English in 1780. There are so many versions, including a ridiculous one by Bob and Doug Mackenzie which is frequently played on the radio around the holidays both in Canada and the U.S.  While I’d never take on the Mackenzie brothers, I would like to pay tribute to 12 Northerners who have either made a difference in helping to transform health care here in the North or shared their experience using the health care system. As you’re reading, please hum along …

  • On the first day of Christmas, I think of Rina Clark who wrote me to say that the VON Adult Day Program in Sault Ste. Marie was helping her husband David, but three days a week wasn’t enough. I’m happy to report that the program has since expanded to six days a week.
  • On the second day … Dr Samir Sinha. Okay he’s not really a Northerner but as the province’s Seniors Care Strategy Lead he’s been spending a lot of time here. A trip he took with us to the James and Hudson Bay coast resulted in positive changes including our investment in a new PSW training program, that incorporates culturally appropriate teachings, taught in remote communities. Twenty-five students have signed up and started classes! Samir is heading to Fort Albany with fellow geriatricians including Jo-Anne Clarke in January bringing a team of clinicians to assess 36 elders and create care plans for them.
  • On the third day …. Lionel Bird, from Peawanuck, a truly insightful man.  Fluent in Cree and English, Lionel articulates the needs of elders in his community so well. I met Lionel last February.
  • On the fourth day … Janet Fathers, the aging at home coordinator on Manitoulin Island. I met her again two weeks ago and we talked about all the new services to help seniors on Manitoulin … including new funding from the LHIN for 330 more seniors to receive rides to medical appointments.
  • On the fifth … Cynthia Wideman, of North Bay, who was “blown away” that thanks to her local Joint Assessment Centre, after receiving an assessment by an advanced practice physiotherapist she was able to get her hip replaced in four months.
  • On the sixth … Allan Jones author of The Book of Al, about his experience as a psychiatric survivor. I met Al at a Schizophrenia Society meeting. He told me how the Northern Initiative For Social Action (NISA - an organization for consumers that is run by consumers) helped him put his words on the page and publish. This year, we’ve managed to increase their funding so that they can hire more people to support each other.
  • On the seventh … Elizabeth Lamirande who was able to leave long term care for a new assisted living apartment at Finlandia Village’s  Lepokoti Residence– showing that long term care can be a place to make some health gains before going back to live independently at home or in community.
  • On the eighth … I met Christine Racette, the resident of a new residential recovery home for people who no longer require hospital care and are ready to transition back into community. The North East LHIN provided funding to the CMHA Sudbury/Manitoulin to support eight people in Sudbury in this home that feels like home.
  • On the ninth …  Angela Recollet, Gloria Daybutch, and Pamela Williamson, the Executive Directors of three Aboriginal Health Access Centres who are making such a difference in delivering care to First Nations people in the North East. Angela, Gloria and Pamela also are members of our Local Aboriginal Health Committee. We value their knowledge and wisdom.
  • On the tenth … Dr. Andre Hurtubise and Dr. Eric Paquette, primary care champions who have helped establish health links in their communities of Temiskaming and Timmins.
  • On the eleventh … Gil Contant, who has developed assisted living services in Elliot Lake through Huron Lodge.
  • On the twelfth …. You dear northerner and all of those who you care for.  I know you are making a difference in the lives around you and I wish you good health in 2014 so that you can continue to make positive change in the world around you.