Construction on a new health centre in Tl’esqox (Toosey) began Tuesday, Oct. 1, coinciding with the official transfer of administration of health authorities across the province to a new First Nations health authority.
“This is a very interesting project in that it shows the very seamless transfer from the feds being the program funder and managing the programs, to having that transfer to the First Nations,” Health Canada’s Mark Fitzsimmons said recently during a ground breaking celebration at Toosey.
Part of the transfer took place in July for the B.C. tripartite framework agreement on First Nations health authority and the full transfer took place Tuesday.
Attributing Chief Francis Laceese and the band council for pulling the project together quickly, Fitzsimmons said in early August the project was actually slated for 2014.
But when an opportunity arose because Health Canada suddenly had a bit of extra money, the band was encouraged to get the architectural plans, put out and award the tender, and start construction before winter.
As he grabbed a shovel for the official ground breaking, Laceese said the new health centre will benefit all ages.
He encouraged youth to consider health professions in the future.
“We’re going to need staff to run the new building,” Laceese said. “We’re going to need nurses and doctors, so think about that. We have a growing nation and it’s important we try to fill those positions.”
Traditional medicines are important for the youth to learn about too, Laceese said.
“I encourage you to learn from our elders the traditional medicine that is passed down,” he told a group of young women who were drumming and singing.
Band council member Georgina Johnny said the community is looking forward to the new building and the time of excitement will be when she walks into the new building.
“This is something we have been waiting for, for a long time and a lot of people played a part in getting it started,” she said.
Health manager Teresa Johnny arrived in the community in 1990 and has always wanted the community to have a new health building.
Architect David Kitizaki of David Nairne Assoc. Ltd., originally from the T’it’k’t First Nation (Lilloeet) said the new building will be have Douglas Fir beams, wood framing, using local wood products, and local carpenters.
Kitizaki designed the new health buildings at Yunesi’tin (Stone), Tl’etinqox’t’in (Anaham) and a school gym for the Nuxalk First Nation in Bella Coola.
Marty Lauren of Lauren Brothers Construction, awarded the contract, said his company worked with Kitizaki on the gym in Bella Coola.
Locally the company also did the renovation of Deni House in Williams Lake.
Lauren said during the course of the Toosey construction project, 20 to 25 people will be employed.