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Are First Nations communities in Northern BC prepared to deal with a COVID-19 outbreak?

Some First Nations across the province have implemented roadblocks to prevent people from coming in during the pandemic.

One question that remains is what authority First Nations communities have to stop residents from coming in and what role health authorities have in helping to enforce those rules.

Nicole Cross is the Northern Regional Executive Director for the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA).

“We stay in touch with those communities as they are making those decisions and make sure they have continued access to care, access to services and work with their leadership on the decisions that they are making with the community in mind.”

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Cross said their leadership has taken the warnings and risks of COVID-19 very seriously and in turn are protecting those most vulnerable, including elders.

In addition, Northern Health President and CEO Cathy Ullrich stated making sure the right kind of medical care is available in those communities is vital.

“For sure, this is something that is top of mind for all of us to make sure that people in remote and isolated communities have clarity about the kind of care that they will receive.”

What does the response plan look like if a small, remote community sustained an outbreak during the pandemic?

That question was also directed toward Northern Health and the FNHA.

Ullrich states both groups are working together to see how a situation like that will be best managed.

“As you can appreciate that will vary from community to community depending on the kind of resources that exist in that community, what is the housing environment like and what type of services exist in that community.”

Cross adds all the communities they serve have worked hard to develop a pandemic plan.

“Our leadership has really taken the warnings and the risks very seriously and in turn put those additional measures in place to protect our most vulnerable, individuals inclusive of our elders.”

There are 23 cases of the coronavirus in Northern Health.

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