Saa Dene and Maple partner on virtual care
December 2, 2020
TORONTO – Maple, Canada’s leading telemedicine provider, and Saa Dene Group, a collective of Indigenous-owned companies which aims to increase authentic Indigenous economic participation, have partnered to expand access to virtual care nationwide. Named after the Cree word for maple, Maple Maskawâhtik is a first in Canada joint venture that represents a continuation of Saa Dene Group’s mandate to collaborate with local Indigenous populations, governments and business leaders, driving positive impact on communities across Canada.
“I have seen first-hand the limited access to physical and mental health services in Indigenous communities. This continues to be a major barrier to the autonomy and empowerment of our people,” says Jim Boucher (pictured), president and founder of the Saa Dene Group. “Through Maple Maskawâhtik, we will expand access to these essential services where they’re needed most, ultimately increasing the health and prosperity of Indigenous peoples and communities across Canada.”
While nearly 19% of Canadians live in rural and remote communities, they’re served by only 8% of Canadian physicians. Access to care is often limited by the time and cost required to travel to larger urban centres where more specialized practitioners are concentrated. The impact of this dynamic is further exacerbated for many Indigenous people. According to a 2020 Statistics Canada report, six in ten Indigenous people report that their mental health has worsened since the onset of physical distancing, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which spells out specific Calls to Action for the reconciliation process in Canada, identifies addressing health inequities as being a critical step in this process. It specifically defines the need to set measurable goals to “identify and close the gaps in health outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities … [including] the availability of appropriate health services.”
“Through partnerships with key businesses and a strong, diverse network of healthcare providers on the Maple platform, we’ve been able to substantially increase access to healthcare across the country, servicing more Canadians in a single day than many of the busiest emergency rooms in the country,” says Dr. Brett Belchetz, CEO and co-founder of Maple. “Virtual care has incredible potential to increase access to physical and mental health services for all Canadians, and that’s what we’ll drive forward with Maple Maskawâhtik.”
Through collaboration with local leaders in rural and remote communities across Canada, Maple Maskawâhtik will develop tailored services to deliver culturally appropriate virtual care, addressing both physical and mental health. The venture, which has majority Indigenous ownership, will also help support Indigenous participation in one of Canada’s fastest growing industries – healthcare technology.
“Indigenous economic participation through technology and innovation can provide a viable healthcare solution to the public. Maple Maskawâhtik has the ability to bring a network of public and mental healthcare providers to those in need, with no limitations to the time of day or their location,” says Jauvonne Kitto, CEO of Saa Dene Group. “Specialized quality healthcare has always been a common and costly challenge for rural and remote communities. Now, more than ever, as we navigate through the Covid-era, there has been a fundamental shift in the delivery of care to all patients and Maple Maskawâhtik can bridge this healthcare gap.”
Maple Maskawâhtik will launch innovative programs of care to remote and Indigenous populations across Canada in the coming months.
About Saa Dene Group
The Saa Dene Group of Companies was established in 2020 and comprises eight organizations including Maple Maskawâhtik. It is led by Jim Boucher, who continues to be one of the most influential and successful Indigenous leaders. First elected as Chief of Fort McKay First Nation in 1986, Jim Boucher served his community for over 30 years. During his term, Fort McKay First Nation and its companies have grown to be one of the most successful First Nations success stories in Canada. Jim’s visionary leadership and gift for building collaborative relationships have been recognized through a variety of awards. He received the Alberta Order of Excellence (2020), Canadian Energy Person of the Year (2018) and an Indspire (formerly National Aboriginal Achievement) Award (2008).
Maple is a technology platform that tackles some of the world’s most meaningful issues in healthcare, starting with timely and convenient access to doctors and other healthcare providers including dermatologists, psychiatrists, and oncology navigation experts. It allows patients to connect directly with doctors and specialists for medical care in minutes from their smartphone or computer 24/7, and also provides custom technology solutions for employers, insurers, hospitals, and clinics. Learn more at getmaple.ca.