The James Smith Cree Nation’s new medical clinic in Saskatoon is one step closer to becoming reality.

The First Nation signed a memorandum of understanding Thursday with Saskatchewan Polytechnic to provide on site medical training for students.

The new private clinic will provide medical imaging services for patients such as MRI and CT scans.

James Smith Chief Wally Burns said things have come a long way in the course of a year.

“To me it’s a vision that’s coming true,” he said. “A discussion that we had one day and now we’re here and the thoughts are overwhelming and the words…I just can’t say anything bad about this.”

The clinic’s MRI and CT machines will provide training for Sask Polytech students in radiology technology and related fields.

President Larry Rosia said the new medical facility provides a tremendous opportunity for the institution’s students.

“So we can start talking about future programming opportunities and possibilities that we can start now delivering through Saskatchewan Polytechnic,” he said. “Where in the past we wouldn’t have been able to because we wouldn’t have had access to the equipment that’s going to be available in the clinic.”

Vice-president of clinic operations Dragan Racic said they had hoped to have the facility up and running this fall but encountered a few obstacles.

“We had scheduled to be open in September,” he said. “However, we ran into some delays due to some construction work in Market Mall. Without getting too much into details, we had to put so much more into construction of the roof and bringing in some different electricity requirements for the equipment. Because an MRI, and CT especially, are really high end machines that require a different setup.”

Racic says the clinic should now be open sometime in February.

When fully operational, the facility will have one MRI, one CT, one x-ray and five ultrasound machines.

It will also have an attached medical and research centre.

Racic said the clinic will employ about 15 full time and 20 part time employees.

Total investment is roughly $8.5 million.

The MRI machine alone costs $2.5 million with the CT about $1.7 million.

The James Smith Medical Clinic is located in Market Mall on Preston Avenue.

(PHOTO: James Smith Cree Nation Chief Wally Burns, far left, and Saskatchewan Polytechnic President Larry Rosia, far right, at the memorandum of understanding signing. Photo by Fraser Needham.)