Island Lakes First Nations in Manitoba getting boost in fight against COVID-19

The four communities that make up the Island Lake First Nations in northern Manitoba will soon have more than 1,000 rapid COVID-19 tests available to be used on people coming from Winnipeg.

Garden Hill, Red Sucker Lake, Wasagamack and Saint Theresa Point in Manitoba are the communities that will be using these tests.

Community members and essential workers entering the fly in communities in Manitoba will now be tested before they enter the community.

The Four Arrows Regional Health Authority will conduct tests in Winnipeg for those deemed essential, which includes community members in Winnipeg for medical reasons returning home – and healthcare workers entering the Island Lakes communities.

While they only started testing this past weekend, the executive director for Four Arrows wishes they could have started sooner.

“We’ve only started ours over the weekend and that wasn’t for a lack of trying that was just again jurisdictional issues and trying to work out a process where we could do that on our own and exercising our own sovereignty as First Nations people to provide that service for our people. And of course we did it at the instruction of our leadership and the communities,” Alex McDougall told APTN News.

People will be tested and will have their results back in roughly 20 minutes – as opposed to a day or two thanks to the purchase of two digital analyzers.

Acquiring the tests and rapid analyzers was made possible through a partnership between Four Arrows and Indigenous Canadian Medical Dispensaries.

IcMD is a 100 per cent Indigenous owned company dedicated to increasing access to healthcare services for remote, urban and rural communities.

In a media release, IcMD president and co-founder Christopher Henry said he was excited to be able to help offer these rapid tests to the communities.

“The IcMD platform was created to help our communities and their members’ access medical services that many Canadians might take for granted,” he said in the release.

“We are extremely honoured to be chosen by Four Arrows and the Island Lakes communities to provide rapid response COVID testing equipment and training to make our communities safer.”

Kathy Settee is a nurse with the Four Arrows Regional Health Authority who conducts these new rapid tests. She says the speed at which these tests are done provide everyone a sense of safety and security.

“It gives the community the sense that we’re tracking their community members to come in safely,” Settee said.

“It’s very important so that the community is safe and their families that they are returning home to are protected and the necessary steps are in place.”

As of Dec. 22 there were 1,300 known cases of COVID-19 on First Nations in Manitoba, according to the latest report from the Manitoba First Nations Pandemic Response Coordination Team.

Reporter / Winnipeg

Darrell is a proud member of Peguis First Nation in Manitoba. He is a graduate of the television program from Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton. He is returning to APTN after having completed an internship with us in 2018 and a brief stop as a reporter in B.C. in 2019.