NDP Urges Government to Send Doctors to First Nations During Pandemic

December 18, 2020

Treaty 5 Territory, Manitoba—Manitoba NDP Critic for Indigenous Relations Ian Bushie called on the provincial government today to work with the Northern Regional Health Authority (NRHA) to ensure isolated First Nations, like Bunibonibee Cree Nation, have in-person access to physicians throughout the pandemic.

“We can’t fight COVID-19 outbreaks without health care workers. There are physicians, who care about these communities and want to help these families, that are offering to provide the support that is so desperately needed. Yet the Pallister government is refusing,” said Bushie. “It’s a shameful display of putting money ahead of people in a pandemic. The government should do the right thing and immediately send doctors into First Nations to support acute care.”

In a letter obtained by the NDP, health officials rebuffed physicians’ offer to provide in-person and virtual care to Bunibonibee Cree Nation a community which has been grappling with a severe COVID-19 outbreak. The letter outlines the extreme need for acute care support within the community: five to six patients are medevac'd out of the community per day, nurses struggle to connect with overwhelmed doctors in Thompson and are asking for an on-call physician to help with acute care.

Despite these mounting needs, the NRHA is only able to provide virtual physician care until they are “advised to transition into that direction” by the provincial government. NRHA officials note that inperson appointments “would provide the most reliable and continuous service” to the community.

“Northern First Nations, like Bunibonibee Cree Nation, struggle to have continuous access to doctors even without a pandemic. It’s just one reason why communities were hit so hard by this virus and why First Nation families face poorer health outcomes,” said Bushie. “Every Manitoban deserves equitable access to quality health care. That means being able to see a doctor when they need to, in their home community. The Pallister government must act immediately to ensure northern families can get the physician care they deserve.”