Nishnawbe Aski Nation

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August 25, 2016


THUNDER BAY, ON (August 25, 2016): Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler and Deputy Grand Chief Jason Smallboy have criticized the short notice of the temporary closure of federally-operated nursing stations and an alternative plan for the delivery of health care services that has caused chaos for two remote First Nations.

“It is unacceptable that two of our remote communities were given as little as two days’ notice that their nursing stations will be temporarily closed and that the few nurses in their communities would be pulled out as soon as today,” said Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. “We recognize the challenges Health Canada is facing with the recruitment and retention of qualified nursing staff, but giving our leaders such short notice that their only health care services are closing, even on a temporary basis, is intolerable. This has caused unnecessary chaos and confusion, leaving our leaders scrambling to ensure the health and safety of their community members.”

A memorandum from the Government of Canada dated August 23, 2016 states that an ‘Alternative Service Delivery Plan’ will be instituted for Keewaywin First Nation and Summer Beaver (Nibinamik First Nation). It states that ‘clients will continue to have access to nursing services via telemedicine (OTN/KNET or phone) at an alternate nursing station’ during the following nursing station closures: Keewaywin from August 25 to September 5, and Nibinamik from August 27 to September 12, 2016.

On a conference call today between First Nation leaders and health officials, assurances were given by federal health officials that arrangements have been made for both nursing stations to remain open. Nurses are to remain in Keewaywin First Nation until September 12 and a nurse to be deployed to Nibinamik.

“It is unacceptable for remote and isolated First Nations to face the possibility of their nursing stations closing, even temporarily, and I strongly disagree with Health Canada’s reliance on alternative sites for health care access and telemedicine as temporary solutions. Residents of remote fly-in communities cannot simply drive to neighbouring communities,
and making a phone call for assistance is not an option in the event of a heart attack, acute trauma, or other major medical emergency,” said Deputy Grand Chief Jason Smallboy, who holds the health portfolio. “NAN First Nations suffer from marginalized health care services and the potential removal of nurses only exacerbates the current health crisis in our territory. It is the responsibility of Health Canada to ensure that qualified medical professionals are in our communities so our members have access to the same level of health care as the rest of the country.”

NAN and representatives of the Sioux Lookout Area Chiefs Committee on Health declared a Health and Public Health Emergency in February 2016 to address urgent and long-standing health issues caused by the inequality of health and health care services in NAN First Nations. To address this, First Nation leaders and health officials presented strategic recommendations to the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs on April 14, 2016.

A scathing report by the Auditor General of Canada in 2015 confirmed the continued failure of Health Canada to address the health care needs of First Nations.

Earlier this month, NAN and the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak announced their commitment to work together to improve the health of their members and communities with the signing of a Political Unity Accord on First Nations Health.

For more information please contact: Michael Heintzman, Director of Communications – Nishnawbe Aski Nation (807) 625-4965 or cell (807) 621-2790 or by email
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