June 20, 2024

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Health-care partnership bolsters emergency response, transportation in northern Manitoba First Nations

Leaders representing 15 First Nations in northern Manitoba are singing the praises of a new partnership, which they hope can fill some gaps in emergency service while helping their communities take control of their health care.

The agreement, between Four Arrows Regional Health Authority and Keewatin Tribal Council, covers emergency medical responder training and medical transportation. 

According to a joint news release Tuesday, 12 graduates of an 11-week emergency medical responders training program received their Emergency Medical Response Certificates of Practice from the College of Paramedics Manitoba.

Another 24 students from seven First Nation communities received advanced first-aid certificates.

Scott Harper is the grand chief of Island Lake Tribal Council, which covers four northeastern First Nations and is responsible for Four Arrows Regional Health Authority. In an interview with CBC, he said the partnership is very important for the communities, “especially the services that we’re trying to develop in our communities and that are otherwise not available.”

According to Harper, these communities have been lobbying for more doctors, nurses and hospital services.

“Currently there is nothing like that in our community, especially with the population and size of our communities, which is quite larger than some of the places that do have hospitals and services like that,” he said.

The initiative also expanded on-reserve health-care services. Medical equipment and supplies, as well as custom-made non-ambulance transport vehicles were delivered to 13 northern First Nation health centres. 

The Dodge Ram vans are equipped with access ramps and are made to accommodate ambulatory, wheelchair and stretcher passenger services, according to the news release.

The program received funding from Indigenous Services Canada and is being seen as an initiative to bridge some gaps in health care services in Indigenous communities.

The program will cost $5 million over five years.

John Spence, director of health at Keewatin Tribal Council, which represents 11 northern First Nations, said he sees the program as another step toward the goal of communities controlling their own health services.

Spence said the initiative for the program started back in 2019 when Jennifer MacGillivray from Indigenous Services Canada approached them.

Katherine Nazzie, the nursing station maintenance advisor of Keewatin Tribal Council, negotiated the program and reported back to Spence. 

Nazzie informed Spence that Health Canada was offering an emergency medical training program in partnership with Four Arrows Regional Health Authority.

“So we jumped on board with it because it has everything we needed for the training for the emergency medical responders for the First Nations,” Spence said.

Spence explained the program acted “as a stepping stone for these First Nation people who are doing the training because they can teach them to become advanced care paramedics.”

“It really helps the communities plus it helps ensure the safe transportation of community members within their communities to get the services that they need,” he added, noting that now there are also vehicles that will help get people safely to their designated nursing stations. 

Trainees on standby at hockey tournament

In fact, the communities are already seeing the benefits of the program. 

At a recent hockey tournament that involved the Keewatin Tribal Council team, two of the trainees of the program, who received their emergency medical response certificates, were on standby for any medical emergency that could come up with the hockey players, Spence said..

“They were there at the arena, providing their services already,” he explained. “There was no accident at the hockey tournament, but they were there on standby waiting to provide any necessary services … if needed.”

Spence commended Nazzie for negotiating the partnership, doing all the leg work.

“She was quite instrumental on getting this underway,” he said, noting Nazzie saw the initiative as another step in creating infrastructure for First Nations communities.