stats Making the Business of Life Easier

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Canada's Apartheid, by John Stackhouse
  Nov. 3

Welcome to Harlem on the Prairies
  Nov. 3 (Saskatoon, SK)

Crystal's choice: The best of both worlds
  Nov. 5 (Mississauga, ON)

How the Mi'kmaq profit from fear
  Nov. 6 (Cape Breton, NS)

The healing power of hockey
  Nov. 7 (The Pas, MB)

Norma Rae of the Okanagan
  Nov. 8 (Westbank, BC)

Comic genius or 'niggers in red face'?
  Nov. 9 (Regina, SK)

Praying for a miracle
  Nov. 10 (Lac Ste. Anne, AB)

To have and to have not
  Nov. 12 (Moosonee, ON)

Trouble in paradise
  Nov. 19 (Tofino, BC)

A cut of the action
  Nov. 26 (Wabigoon, ON)

The young and the restless
  Dec. 3 (Ashern, MB)

The wireless warrior's digital dream
  Dec. 10 (Ottawa,ON)

'Everyone thought we were stupid'
  Dec. 14 (Salluit, QC)

First step: End the segregation
  Dec. 15 (Last in the series)


To have and to have not

Story by John Stackhouse. Photos by Patti Gower.
The Globe and Mail, November 12, 2001

Part 5 of 7: Health care in isolated communities

Moosonee, ON Despite the impression across the river that Moose Factory is pampered, its hospital struggles like every other one in the North to keep health-care professionals from moving south. As a regional facility, Weeneebayko is supposed to have 10 doctors, but is down to four, leaving Green with a greater burden. In the past week, he has put in 56 hours of direct clinical work and 14 more of administration.

The pressure is more acute up the coast, where half a dozen native communities can be reached only by airplane, freighter or winter road. One community, Kacheshewan, had to train a janitor to operate the local X-ray machine.

The only hope seems to lie in people like Elaine Wabano.

A MoCreeBec nurse-practitioner who will take over much of Green's work when daylight comes, she has had additional training that allows her to handle several basic tasks previously left to doctors. She also can work with patients on preventive health care. And she's not likely to take her skills to Toronto, or Texas.

When daylight comes, Wabano's shift begins a bit later than normal. She is flying back that morning from Kingston, with her mother, a nurse's aide, who has been diagnosed with cancer. Their travel costs, as patient and escort, will be covered by Ottawa.

Wabano is a year older than Green, and grew up near the hospital in one-room hut with wood walls and a canvas roof. Five of the six children in her family shared a pullout bed. She remembers the thrill of her family getting a two-bedroom home with indoor plumbing when the federal government agreed in the 1980s to recognize the MoCreebec and build them proper homes. When she became a teenager, she had to share a bed with only two others. "It was a really big deal," she laughs.

Wabano had her first child when she was 17, a few weeks shy of her high-school graduation, forcing her to turn down the many community colleges in Southern Ontario that had offered her a place. She chose instead to study nursing - she had always liked the nurses at the hospital - at Northern College's local satellite campus.

Largely thanks to this program, set up by the province to train northerners for jobs in health care, nearly 50 of Weeneebayko's 58 nurses come from the local community, and every remote post has at least one local resident on staff.

Wabano went on to Lakehead University in Thunder Bay with her husband and five children, she for additional training to become a nurse-practitioner, he for studies to become a teacher.

Today, in her afternoon "urgency clinic," she can diagnose patients, prescribe drugs and make referrals. She is also coaching women to search for signs of breast cancer, and recently received funds to produce a Cree video on the subject.

THIS STORY AT A GLANCE (Parts 1 to 7):

Photo Essay
Gateway to the arctic

1. 'The first nations get much better health care'
A two-tier health-care system for two communities

2. A blessed Cree community
An island reserve with its own luxury hotel, cable TV company, shopping mall and elders home

3. The region's health care schism
Provincially run hospitals where Ottawa pays the bills for natives

4. Patching up the wounds of an afflicted society
"I'm not going to march down to the council chamber and say, `You have a problem with drugs' "

5. Health care in isolated communities
The only hope seems to lie in a MoCreeBec nurse-practitioner

6. Moose Factory's epidemic
Persuading her patients to modify a lifestyle that is killing the Crees of Canada's North

7. "I've never seen anything quite like this."
Cutting costs, merging two hospitals



photo essays
Two worlds - photo essay

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