The provincial government has announced a “new collaborative framework” to support those living in rural, remote, and Indigenous communities during the pandemic.
In a statement today, Premier John Horgan acknowledged that “people living in rural, remote and Indigenous communities have unique challenges in accessing the healthcare they need.”
The new framework, developed through a partnership between the First Nations Health Authority, Northern Health, and Provincial Health Services Authority, will work to provide communities with improved medical transportation and housing options for those looking to self-isolate while staying in their home communities.
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As for medical support, the government is pledging new and faster COVID-19 testing technology, culturally safe contact tracing that respects privacy in small communities, access to a program that connects First Nations members and their families to a doctor or nurse practitioner using videoconferencing, and increased mental health resources.
BC Emergency Health Services has also added 55 ground ambulances throughout the province — including six in the Northern Health region — to support these efforts, as well as seven fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters for medical transport. Several GeneXpert testing kits — which take less than 45 minutes to complete — are being used in First Nations Health Authority, Northern Health, Interior Health, Vancouver Coastal Health, and Fraser Health, and more of these rapid kits are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.
“Indigenous communities have been harder hit in past pandemics and are vulnerable to COVID-19. Elders in particular, as critical knowledge keepers and holders of language, culture and teachings, must be protected,” said Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, in a statement.
“Having plans and supports tailored to the unique circumstances and challenges in remote Indigenous communities will support these communities in caring for their residents.”