The Grande Prairie Regional Hospital (GPRH) is supporting indigenous people to stage their traditional smudging ceremonies there.

Patients and families at the hospital can request the opportunity to smudge a ceremony of burning sacred plants, accompanied by a prayer. Within 20 minutes of the request, the hospital will re-route that room’s air to be ventilated outdoors. Once the ceremony is complete, the airflow is returned to its regular system.

“It’s about providing better support to our indigenous communities, which in turn supports Alberta Health Services (AHS) patient-first strategy,” said Brendan Martins, lead hand with Facilities Maintenance & Engineering at GPRH and a member of the Carry the Kettle Nakoda Nation from Saskatchewan. 

“The Elders involved were impressed we were working to make this possible.”

Candice Edey, AHS senior operating officer for Grande Prairie, said suggestions for making smudging more accessible came from the Indigenous Engagement Committee during the commissioning phase of the GPRH. 

“Our Facilities Maintenance & Engineering team then worked to create this new process to ensure smudging is available in a timely manner,” she said. 

The GPRH is the first AHS site to facilitate smudging in this way, said AHS. 

“Offering the ability to smudge is a huge step towards reconciliation,” said Shannon Dunfield, manager of Indigenous Health and Diversity in the AHS North Zone.

“This helps our people feel welcome, comforted and culturally safe when they come to the hospital.” 

AHS says smudging and pipe ceremonies create minimal smoke and are listed as exceptions in legislation and AHS policies around an open flame and smoke. 

“Health care organizations such as AHS have been called upon in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action to incorporate traditional healing practices for Indigenous patients and families,” said AHS in a news release. 

“AHS is working to provide a consistent approach to accommodating ceremonies so, no matter where in the province patients are, they can expect the same standard of care.”

By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 20, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Town & Country News   Beaverlodge, Alberta
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