First Nations health organization celebrates 20 years in action

NITHA celebrated their 20th anniversary at the Prince Albert Wildlife Federation on September 13, 2018. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Jayda Noyes, Daily Herald

Prince Albert’s Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority (NITHA) had their 20th anniversary last week.

The organization serves 33 First Nations communities in northern Saskatchewan, providing health care services and education abiding with living on reserves.

It began in 1998 when four entities came together: Prince Albert Grand Council, Meadow Lake Tribal Council, Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation and Lac Laronge.

According to Medical Health Officer Nnamdi Ndubuka, the organization is the only one of its kind in Canada.

“We support (First Nations communities) in being there for them and being their voices in different areas where we have the opportunity to meet with our provincial counterparts on the regional or federal level,” he said.

The Minister of Health and those at the Saskatchewan Health Authority are understanding of the fact that First Nations peoples have a unique view of healthcare, he noted.

“Having that mutual respect for one another is something that we’ve accomplished.”

They’ve procured a device that diagnoses tuberculosis within hours, which normally takes two to three weeks.

Another is a portable device for convenient x-rays on reserves.

Despite these accomplishments, Ndubuka said there’s room for improvement.

One area he’d like to see improve is both quality and quantity of housing.

The presence of mould is causing respiratory problems and a lack of homes is causing overcrowding.

Thursday marked their anniversary, when they held a celebration at the Prince Albert Wildlife Federation, which is just outside of the city.

Ndubuka said over 200 people were in attendance between their partners, community members and media.

“I feel so elated because working with First Nations is a unique experience for me,” he said. “My goal is to continue to improve those relations and build bridges.”

He added NITHA has “grown in leaps and bounds,” starting with an extremely small staff and expanding to about 35 employees.