Infrastructure, overcrowding among challenges facing northern Sask. communities as COVID-19 cases rise
SASKATOON -- The Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority (NITHA) says it is doing what it can to help address some of the challenges remote Indigenous communities are facing as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
Dr. Nnamdi Ndubuka, NITHA’s medical health officer, said every effort is being made to help stop the spread, especially in communities where outbreaks have been declared.
“Every effort is focused on those communities in terms of deploying all the necessary resources to enable them to contain the outbreak and prevent further spread,” he told CTV News.
However, Ndubuka said it’s important to recognize the challenges that remote, northern communities face when it comes to access to resources and medical care.
He adds that non-compliance to self-isolation measures also continue to be a challenge.
“Some have not been able to self-isolate because they don’t have the necessary infrastructure to accommodate them, especially in places where they have overcrowding in the home.”
Ndubuka said that is something he and his staff are hoping to address by getting winter-friendly places for people who need to self-isolate to stay and by creating more educational tools in various languages so that people understand the risks of transmission.
As of Wednesday, 281 COVID-19 cases are considered active in NITHA’s communities, including Pelican Narrows where there are 29 active cases.
Chief Peter Beatty of Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, which overlooks Pelican Narrows, said he also has concerns about accessibility, especially for patients who require care in larger centres.
“If one of our COVID patients were to get extremely, extremely sick and could not be taken out by roads, they would have to try and airlift that person to either Prince Albert or Saskatoon and of course, with the poor lighting if it was at night, there would be huge problems there as well.”
Pelican Narrows is one of eight northern Indigenous communities where outbreaks have been declared.
As a result, Beatty said safety measures have been put in place to help curb the spread, including travel restrictions to and from the community.
Non-residents are not allowed inside the community at this time and residents can only leave if it essential, he said.
“We’re trying to keep it within that bubble so that there’s very minimum outside influence coming in terms of more COVID infections.”
Beatty said his hope is to have the cases plateau in the next week or so by having everyone continue doing their part to keep themselves and others safe.