(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

Just Posted

Cranbrook Bucks add veteran blueliner to defensive corps

A veteran blueliner has joined the Cranbrook Bucks defensive corps. Carson Kurylo… Continue reading

Conservation officers rescue elk calf, take it to wildlife rehab centre

Members with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service recently rescued a dehydrated and… Continue reading

City of Cranbrook, WildSafeBC report uptick in aggressive deer

WildSafeBC says it’s important to ensure that deer don’t make your yard their home

Chernove set to take on epic 1,000 kilometre cycling challenge

A local Paralympian is taking on an epic cycling challenge. Tristen Chernove… Continue reading

From baseball stars to forest fires: Southeast Fire Centre water bomber has an interesting past

Tanker 489 is stationed in Castlegar this year, but in the 1960s it belonged to the L.A. Dodgers.

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

VIDEO: Vancouver Island cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

COVID-19 cases identified in Kelowna, after public gatherings

Those who were downtown or at the waterfront from June 25 to July 6 maybe have been exposed to COVID-19.

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

National Kitten Day aka the ‘purrfect’ day to foster a new friend

July 10 marks National Kitten Day, a special day to celebrate all things kittens

Lower Mainland YouTubers claim to be Kelowna display toilet ‘poopers’

RCMP can not speak to legitimacy of video, will be investigating

Haida matriarchs occupy ancient villages as fishing lodges reopen to visitors

‘Daughters of the rivers’ say occupation follows two fishing lodges reopening without Haida consent

Most Read