Paving the road to long-term care facilities in Meadow Lake

Officials from Flying Dust envision that this road, running north from the Meadow Lake RCMP detachment, could one day be paved towards a new cooperative development

By Ben Ingram

A budding partnership between Flying Dust First Nation and Prairie North Health Region seeks to make a new long-term health facility in the Meadow Lake area a reality.

“I’d like to get it done by the end of June if possible,” PNHR CEO David Fan said of negotiations aiming to establish a long-term lease agreement with Flying Dust.

The health region hopes to use Flying Dust land located northeast of the city, specifically the area north of the Meadow Lake RCMP detachment.

If such an arrangement is possible, Fan said the next phase would be a detailed design of the new facility.

While PNHR remains committed to rebuilding the Northland Pioneer Lodge, the health region recruited outside consultants to draw up a business plan focused on a partnership with Flying Dust.

“The consultant report is available to us now. We want to now sit down and based on what the report says, create that partnership,” Fan said.

Officials at Flying Dust are also optimistic. They envision not just a new facility that would add more long-term care spaces to the area, but a whole new development that would include light-commercial and residential real estate.

Richard Derocher, the project manager at Flying Dust First Nation, said he envisions a market development with an exterior residential aspect.

Derocher said Flying Dust will also want to explore the possibility of having a First Nations wing added to the facility, as care facilities in their community are also running at capacity. With regards to the negotiations, Derocher said this desire would not be essential to an agreement.

“We want to show the rest of the province…that First Nations and mainstream society can work together to build these kind of facilities,” he said. “We also want to show that this government of today is First Nation friendly.”

Derocher identified the mutual interests in the proposal and estimated that 80 per cent of the expected $25 million price tag could be funded over a long period of time.

“I think we’re getting closer and closer,” he said. “I’m being optimistic, but I think it will be a done deal.”

The financial incentive for Flying Dust would also help the First Nation to make strides on its ambition to develop the area into a “hub of westward development” in the area.

“We know when we build there, it’s going to have the same amenities as the city like pavement, gutters, concrete, all that stuff,” Derocher said. “It would be just like a city facility.”

This would make the area ripe for development, Derocher added, while also serving to solidify the relationship between the two communities.

“We’re pretty unique in Meadow Lake because the First Nations people and the mainstream are not that far apart,” he said. “We’re both here, I call us one community. If we work together, we’ll be a lot farther off than if we work in little boxes.”

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