Windsor Regional Hospital opens rooms for Indigenous ceremonies file photo of Windsor Regional Hospital's Metropolitan Campus, July 16, 2015. (Photo by Jason Viau)

Calling it a significant step forward in addressing barriers faced by Indigenous patients, Windsor Regional Hospital has opened two rooms for Indigenous healing ceremonies.

There is now one at the Met Campus and one at the Ouellette Campus.

The hospital said it has always accommodated smudging requests, but a new policy will make it easier for staff members to help patients carry out “important cultural practices in a safe and comfortable environment.” It will also help staff carry out those requests faster.

The smudging ritual involves the practice of burning sacred herbs and medicines, including tobacco, sage, sweet grass, and cedar. The smoke may be brushed over the patient and is commonly done during times of sickness and at the end of life.

“Each ceremony is performed with a specific intention,” said Audrey Logan, the hospital’s Indigenous Navigator. “Sometimes it is to ask for healing, and sometimes to honour the passing of a relative or friend. For Indigenous patients who may be far from home — the ceremony provides a sense of connection to spirit and peace.”

Clinical staff, security and fire prevention, Cancer Care Ontario and partners in the local Indigenous communities created the policy.

“Often times our community members are uncomfortable asking for a smudging ceremony, and when they do, staff members are unsure how to handle the request,” said Logan. “Just talking about it and having guidelines will make it easier for all involved.”

The room at the Met Campus is the Atrium on the fourth floor. At the Ouellette Campus is the Multi-Faith Prayer Room.

The fire alarms will be shut off in those rooms will be shut off during the ceremony and water will be kept inside the room in the event of a fire.

The protocol is also in line with the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, which recognizes the traditional use of smudging and tobacco for cultural and spiritual purposes in hospitals.