I would like to thank everyone who has made this opportunity possible, it was a fantastic learning experience.
Going into the fellowship, I was hoping I’d be able to find a family to follow through the cycle of care, but once I arrived in Sachigo Lake First Nation I realized that this might be a difficult – if not impossible – task, considering the precariousness of health travel.
I instead changed my approach to the topic, deciding to interview as many people as possible, in order to learn about the diverse types of problems people face when trying to access health services in the north, under the federal Non-Insured Health Benefits program (NIHB). Community members were initially hesitant to talk to me, so I was I happy I decided to stay in the community long enough for people to warm up to telling me their stories.
Trying to book and interview with Health Canada was far more difficult. When I first arrived in Sachigo Lake, I was promptly told that the nursing station was off limits, and nurses were instructed not to talk to me. I was instead told I had to book an interview through the federal agency in Ottawa.
It took a over two weeks to book an interview, and even then I had to send a list of questions ahead of time, and the senior media advisor sat in on the call. Not surprisingly, the responses given were at times verbatim from what’s written in the federal NIHB Medical Transportation policy. I think my experience is very telling of the relationship between journalists and federal agencies.
I ended up writing two web stories based on the interviews I collected. One about a young boy, Jedediah, who broke his arm and had to wait days to get it looked at by a doctor. The second story is about Caleb Mckay, who at 61 years old had to permanently move from his community to receive dialysis treatment in Thunder Bay.
In response to the difficulties I faced with Health Canada, I also wrote a Reporter’s Notebook detailing the run around I received when trying to secure an interview.
I am indebted to the people from CBC Manitoba and the CBC Health team, who gave me helpful tips before starting my fellowship. Specifically I would like to thank Cate Friesen, Susan Dufresne, and Kelly Crowe who all helped me conceptualize how to approach such a large topic. I would like to thank Lara Schroeder, who worked closely with me to edit the final web stories. And finally, I would like to thank Jody Porter and Tim Fontaine, who helped me construct my tape talk with the CBC Thunder Bay bureau.
Check out Stephanie’s pieces for CBC News: