THUNDER BAY -- About thirty per cent of babies delivered at the region’s hospital are born to drug-dependant mothers, says the hospital's CEO.
The 2011 census shows 30 per cent of babies in Northwestern Ontario were affected in some way by opioid dependency. Updating city council on the work at the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute Monday night, institute president and Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre head Jean Bartkowiak called those statistics staggering.
Bartkowiak highlighted the research of Dr. Naana Jumah.
A Rhodes Scholar who's graduated from both Oxford and Harvard, the Thunder Bay-born obstetrics and gynecology doctor, is focusing her research on trying to tackle that percentage.
The instititute also announced that its putting a focus on the health of First Nations.
Board chair Gary Polonsky said the institute is in a unique position to help First Nations health in the region. Looking at the country's history of residential schools, he said he also views the initiatives as a way for the institute to do its fair share towards reconciliation.
"I think the country is waking up," he said.
"I think the whole country is committed to doing something about it."
Bartkowiak said a big first step is to try and engage with communities that might not trust the mainstream health system.
"It's not just dollars but it's also understanding where the issues come from,” he said.
Bartkowiak also pointed out that although the hospital has a lot to First Nations patients, there are very few Aboriginal members on staff.
He called it concerning and wants to find ways to get more First nations employed at the hospital, on boards and in senior management.