The family medicine residency partnership between Eabametoong, Matawa First Nations Management and Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) was highlighted at the NOSM Northern Constellation 2018 conference in Thunder Bay.
“I see the importance of having this service in our community because we’ve lost a lot of people in our community,” says Robert Baxter, Eabametoong’s health director. “Us in our community, we tend to kind of let things go by — that’s just the way we’ve been taught due to residential school. But at this time because of all the deaths we’ve seen in our community, it’s time that we do something, it’s time that we incorporate and partner up with people that know the area in regards to medicine and health.”
Baxter delivered his comments during the Walking together and learning from each other: Eabametoong First Nation, Matawa First Nation Management and NOSM’s residency partnership presentation on April 21 at the conference, which was held from April 20-21 at the Valhalla Inn.
“A lot of times when doctors come in, they don’t know our society,” Baxter says. “They only know what they see in the textbooks and what they are taught in the medical schools but they didn’t get a chance to be in the places where they are going to be serving. That is the whole purpose of what we want to do here, is to give them a birds-eye view of our community.”
Deepak Murthy, the first resident in the residency partnership with Eabametoong, says his residency has been “really good.”
“I’m surprised at the amount of support I’m getting from all around, both from the program and the people. I’ve never felt unwelcome, the people are very friendly and I actually look forward to going and living over there.”
Murthy says he has been in the community about four times so far, for about a week at a time.
“I’m quite familiar with the nursing station, which is where I live and work while I am there,” Murthy says, noting that he is almost finished with his first year of residency. “I think this is a great way, going for short stretches initially and hopefully longer. It will be a gradual transition. I will recognize people, I will have friends, they will recognize me as a familiar figure too.”
The two-year family medicine residency stream was announced on Feb. 14. The stream includes a selection process that is equally driven by the community’s determination of the best resident physician for the community and NOSM’s requirements for residency program entry.
“When doctors are mostly off-site, they have limited ability to examine patients, collaborate with nurses, and function as a part of a medical team,” says Eabametoong Chief Elizabeth Atlookan. “Having daily access to a physician can only strengthen our community’s medical services, and hopefully experiencing life in Eabametoong will provide great value to the residents who are chosen to become a part of our community through the joint selection process.”
The family residency stream will eventually have four residents, two first-year residents and two second-year residents, in the Matawa communities when it is fully implemented.
“Matawa First Nations is a proud partner in this precedent setting and transformative initiative,” says David Paul Achneepineskum, Matawa's CEO. “It aligns wonderfully with our overall plan to take over health services for our First Nations and other projects we have been leading including establishing a Matawa Health Co-Operative and installing fibre-to-the-home broadband. We look forward to seeing how having access to a physician living in our community will build capacity, improve health outcomes and save lives.”