(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

First Nations health authorities tell Commons committee they need more PPE

First Nations Health Council of B.C. says access to PPE has also been a concern for First Nations

Indigenous health authorities that service Western Canadian First Nations say they are experiencing problems accessing enough medical and protective equipment needed to protect their citizens from COVID-19.

Senior representatives from regional First Nations health authorities in Saskatchewan and British Columbia told a Commons committee Friday they need more personal protective equipment.

“We have delays in accessing PPE,” said Tara Campbell, executive director of the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority in Saskatchewan.

“On-reserve populations’ PPE in Saskatchewan are distributed by the province and unfulfilled requests are then forward to the national emergency stockpile.”

She also said medical supplies such as thermometers and testing supplies are not readily available and that nursing capacity “remains a critical issue.”

Campbell noted the key role that testing played in addressing an outbreak in the northern Saskatchewan community of La Loche earlier this month, where extensive door-to-door and mobile testing was done to identify and stop the spread of the virus.

“By being able to test and get results sooner, we were able to isolate individuals to make sure that transmission was minimal,” she said.

“We aren’t able to do this in every community because testing supplies are limited.”

READ MORE: Trudeau promises $75M more for off-reserve Indigenous services in pandemic

Chief Charlene Belleau, chair of the First Nations Health Council of B.C., said access to PPE has also been a concern for First Nations across her province.

“We also recognize the limitations across the country, but we are constantly advocating for PPE not only for our health care providers but also for our people that are providing security on the lines or at band offices,” she told the committee.

The federal government has said it has been delivering large amounts of protective equipment to Indigenous communities to ensure they are able to protect their citizens and front line workers against the novel coronavirus.

On Friday, Indigenous Services Canada tweeted that as of May 22, it had shipped 845 orders of PPE to First Nations communities and had one order in progress.

But Conservative MP Bob Zimmer, who is the party’s Northern affairs critic, says the accounts coming from First Nations chiefs and advocates at committee over the last few weeks indicate more of these critical supplies are needed in many Indigenous communities.

“It’s a federal responsibility to provide PPE to the Indigenous communities and it was supposed to be established that way. We’re hearing of shortages across the board, across Canada,” Zimmer said Friday.

READ MORE: Health researcher hopes COVID-19 means new policies for Indigenous peoples

Richard Jock, interim chief executive officer of British Columbia’s First Nations Health Authority, said his agency has developed a system to distribute PPE to its communities and regions to ensure there is a few weeks’ supply to try to prevent critical shortages.

But supplies are low.

“I would not want to say that there’s a stockpile or an accumulated surplus,” he said.

Bellau also noted a rising dispute in B.C. about what level of government — federal, provincial or Indigenous — should pay the increased costs being incurred by First Nations that have hired security personnel to block or limit access to their communities to prevent outbreaks COVID-19.

“(Indigenous Services Canada) cannot rely on First Nations utilizing our own resource revenue as a means of protecting our communities,” she said.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusIndigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Cloverdale students make puzzles for care home residents

Students from Cloverdale’s Sunrise Ridge delivered gifts to seniors and thank you notes to first responders

Semiahmoo Peninsula girls to host Black Lives Matter fundraiser

‘We are doing this because the world is full of systemic racism,’ organizer Sabine Lapointe said

Community fruit harvest program returns to Surrey, White Rock

Sources will send a team to harvest fruit trees, so less goes to waste

Semi and BMW collide on South Surrey highway

At least one person to hospital, both vehicles sustained significant damage

East White Rock crosswalk, speed bumps proposed

Report on costs and implications requested by council

B.C. accommodators need phone lines to light up as in-province travel given green light

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have decimated the tourism and hospitality industries

Broadway veteran Nick Cordero dies from coronavirus complications

During Cordero’s hospitalization, Kloots sent him daily videos of her and their 1-year-old son, Elvis,

Northern communities welcome tourists as province opens to in-B.C. travellers

Officials have asked British Columbians to be careful as they travel this summer

300 Cache Creek residents on evacuation alert due to flood risk as river rises

Heavy rainfall on Canada Day has river rising steadily, threatening 175 properties

Friends, family remember victim of Langley possible triple-homicide fire at memorial

Memorial held for one the of three found dead at a house fire in Langley Meadows last month

Fraser Valley Bandits, CEBL bringing pro sports back later this month

Abbotsford-based basketball team kicks off CEBL Summer Series on July 26

Most Read