Thursday, June 11, 2009

H1N1&First Nations no doctor, no nurses, but emergency hand sanitizer to arrive shortly

Three communities are now impacted: Garden Hill, St. Theresa Point, and South Indian Lake. A fourth First Nation, Grassy Narrows has seen a spike in flu, but H1N1 has not been confirmed. So durng this health emergency CP discovered that Health Canada may actually shut down nursing stations serving some remote Manitoba communities. Meanwhile health officials say it may take more than a week to get a doctor to Garden Hill, where the community still has not received masks, gloves or antivirals, but fortunately health officials have plans to send hand sanitizer. (I am not joking. story) The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the virus a pandemic (level 6) and expressed concern about the vulnerability of First Nations. It is also uncertain if there could be a second more virulent wave of H1N1in the fall. While WHO expressed concern, Canada's Minister of Health played down the disaster that is unfolding. (story) This exchange in the House of Commons yesterday.

Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the spread of H1N1 influenza in Manitoba's aboriginal communities has caused great concern to the World Health Organization. It is considering calling the outbreak a full-blown pandemic. The province of Manitoba offered the federal government help 13 times since May 4 to plan for a possible pandemic in aboriginal communities. Manitoba understands the issue; the World Health Organization understands the issue; only the Conservatives do not understand the issue. Why has there been such a delay in response?

Hon. Leona Aglukkaq (Minister of Health, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I have been in regular contact with my colleague, Minister Oswald, from Manitoba in regard to H1N1. In fact, we have been planning for this pandemic since 2006. Our government invested $1 billion to increase our preparedness to respond to public health threats such as a pandemic, which includes first nations communities. I will continue to work with the Public Health Agency, Indian and Northern Affairs, and aboriginal organizations to ensure a co-ordinated approach. As well, Health Canada has provided additional nurses to the community and--

Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, mothers have lost their babies, and children have received inadequate care. The federal government was not prepared for this outbreak in aboriginal communities. Conditions in these communities continue to deteriorate. Homes are overcrowded. Communities do not have running water. The virus continues to spread. Experts warn that the worst may be yet to come. What concrete plan does the government have to prepare all aboriginal communities for a possible pandemic?

Hon. Leona Aglukkaq (Minister of Health, CPC): Mr. Speaker, since April of this year we have been acting on our pandemic plan, which includes first nations communities. We have remained vigilant on this issue. We are in regular contact with the WHO, my counterparts in the international community, as we deal with this situation. I will continue to work with my colleague in Manitoba as we deal with this situation, as well as the aboriginal leaders of those communities.

Ms. Niki Ashton (Churchill, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the World Health Organization is about to announce H1N1 as a full-blown pandemic, and it has singled out its impact on Canada's aboriginal people. Everyone remembers what happened when hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. This is Canada's New Orleans. Why is there a disproportionate impact on first nations? It is because of a lack of resources, a lack of planning, and fundamentally the third world living conditions that aboriginal people face. When will the government call an emergency summit with aboriginal leaders, provinces and territories to put together a response?

Hon. Leona Aglukkaq (Minister of Health, CPC): Mr. Speaker, as an aboriginal person, I find that line of questioning insulting.
H1N1 is not an illness that applies only to aboriginal people. It does not see race. It does not see class. It does not see boundaries. We need to respond accordingly, and we have. We have a pandemic plan. We are implementing it.

Ms. Niki Ashton (Churchill, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I would ask the minister to come and visit St. Theresa Point and talk to the people who are currently dealing with this crisis. The government has failed to deal decisively with this surge in flu cases. Chief McDougall of St. Theresa Point has called for a field hospital to deal with the situation that is so bad. If we can do this in war zones, why can we not do it on the front lines of a coming pandemic? When is the federal government going to deal with the fundamental root cause of this, which is the third-world living conditions that first nations in Canada face? When will the government wake up to the severity of what is happening?

Hon. Leona Aglukkaq (Minister of Health, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the pandemic plan that was established for this country in 2006 applies to every single Canadian. We are implementing that plan in partnership with the health care service providers of provinces and territories.I will continue to work with my colleagues in Manitoba as we deal with the situation, and we will continue to monitor and remain vigilant as we deal with the situation in Manitoba.

Other posts on this topic:
June 6: If it isn't racism, what is it?
June 5: Feds slow to respond to First Nation pandemic planning: Manitoba
June 4: Another update H1N1
June 3:More on H1N1 at St. Theresa Point First Nation
June 2: Please follow this story. Please write to your MP


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