Patient and Client Supports

Interpreter Services

Eighty-five per cent of Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre patients, clients, and residents are First Nation, and speak one of three principle Anishinaabe languages which include 19 dialects. Many, especially the Elderly, speak only an Anishinaabe language.

The interpreter role is evolving into that of a Wiichi’iwewin worker built on an enhanced interpreter service, elements of the discharge planning function, and a patient navigator role. Some of the Interpreters are trained medical interpreters with college certificates. Their training included an expanded role as an interpreter, an advocate, and a navigator. 

Interpreter Services are available 24/7, and the Wiichi’iwewin workers have assumed a defined caseload, providing support to all patients, clients, residents, and members of the care team.

They ensure the required comforts, supports, community interfaces, navigation and non-clinical assistance are in place to minimize cross-cultural, institutional, and health system barriers. They assure complete bi-directional cultural and linguistic interpretation to optimize care planning and delivery. This is essential to safe patient care and client services.

Elders in Residence

At present, there are two Elders in Residence who work with other caregivers as part of the care team. They are essential members of the team and provide patient, client and resident contact, support, education, and counselling as integral elements of the care plan. They also provide support for families during critical illness of a patient and in instances of loss and bereavement. Within the Wiichi’iwewin Program, the Elders provide support, advice, and guidance to the interpreters in their work. Additional visits by other Elders are made as circumstances permit.

Cultural Awareness

Two well-defined, multi-level sensitization, awareness and training programs have been in place for all SLMHC staff for several years.

One program is named Bimaadiziwin, a term Anishinaabe elders use to describe their teachings, meaning “living life in a good way.” Bimaadiziwin teaches one to live in total balance in mind, body, soul, and spirit.

The goal of the program is to embed legacy cultures of our area into the fabric of the organization. This program was jointly developed by SLMHC staff and senior management, local First Nation elders, and the Canadian Institute for Conflict Resolution. Advanced levels of this training have been developed for implementation.

The second program is Cross-Cultural Care Training. This program increases awareness of culturally competent care for all service providers at SLMHC. The focus is on the cultures of all staff within the Sioux Lookout region, and how those cultures impact our work.

Find out more about this training, which is offered to the public, on our Bimaadizizwin page.

Employment Balance

At present, only a marginal number of SLMHC employees self-identify as Indigenous. The population we serve is 85 percent Anishinaabe. We have set a goal of achieving more balanced employment over the next generation of workers.

Important steps are in place to help meet this goal:

  • targeted FN employment positions
  • outreach to education and training schools
  • role model programs
  • mentoring programs
  • local capacity requirements on capital projects
  • collaboration with economic development agencies, contractors, unions, and others


As noted, 85 per cent of SLMHC patients and clients are First Nation people, virtually all of whom speak and read one of three principle Anishinaabe languages. Many only understand an Anishinaabe language.  

Anishinaabe languages are not modern and do not adapt themselves easily to the translation of clinical terms or concepts. To assist in providing safe care, a lexicon in the three languages, with common terms and symbols, has been developed and published and is being used by Interpreters, care providers, patients, clients, and residents. These medical dictionaries can be downloaded as PDFs (see sidebar).