Philpott says NAN communities prepared but will be tested as virus confirmed in Sioux Lookout

Dr. Jane Philpott, far left,

Dr. Jane Philpott has returned to the hospital where she worked for 17 years before getting into politics helping out during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Philpott is also assisting First Nations in northern Ontario as part of a “task team” organized by Nishnawbe Aski Nation in response to the pandemic.

“So far they are no confirmed cases, or suspected cases in NAN territory. They’ve been, as I said, very proactive,” said Philpott on Nation to Nation Thursday.

She said many communities were quick to restrict access and curtail large gatherings. Some of the 49 NAN communities flights have been limited and non-members are asked to stay away unless they provide an essential service.

But the virus is getting close.

It’s confirmed in Sioux Lookout and Dryden, Ont.

Both communities serve a large number of surrounding First Nations.

The Northwestern health unit said families of both individuals who tested positive are in quarantine.

But NAN has tried to ready its communities for this moment.

It’s task team was announced Mar. 16 and also includes Natalie Bocking, public health and preventative medicine specialist, Dr. Michael Kirlew, a family physician based in Moose Factory, Lynne Innes, nurse practitioner and president of Weeneebayko Area Health Authority, Mae Katt, a well-known nurse practitioner based in Thunder Bay and Michelle Gervais, a specialist in emergency management response.

“We meet over teleconference almost every day,” said Philpott.

That’s for good reason.

“As you know, many First Nation communities, particularly in remote areas, have been functioning on less than adequate health facilities for generations and this will really put them to the test,” she said.

Philpott returned to the Markham Stouffville Hospital in the Toronto area last month to help in the hospital’s COVID-19 assessment centre.

Her role there sees Philpott assess medical health professionals to determine whether they need testing for the virus.

“We have certainly not reached the peak of this yet,” said Philpott.

Philpott, left, seen last month at the Markham Stoufville Hospital’s COVID-19 assessment centre. Philpott is also helping northern Ontario First Nations respond to the pandemic. Jane Philpott photo.

Meanwhile, several First Nations have asked for the help of the Canadian Armed Forces to combat the virus, that includes Kashechewan First Nation in northern Ontario with flood season fast approaching. Typically, the citizens are flown out to southern cities, but that’s not possible in the pandemic.

Kashechewan asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the military’s help March 20.

Since then several other communities say they will need the military’s help, as well.

“I think right now the focus is on the details of what type of assistance is needed and where,” said Valerie Gideon, senior assistant deputy minister for Indigenous Services Canada.

Gideon has joined Nation to Nation the last three weeks to provide the latest the feds are doing to assist First Nations, Inuit and Metis.

Nation to Nation also spoke APTN’s Iqaluit bureau chief, Kent Driscoll, who says despite there not being a confirmed case in the territory the Nunavut government is fuming over the lack of funding by Ottawa to respond to the pandemic.

Watch that interview and the others below.

-with APTN News files

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