First Nations in northern Ontario facing COVID surge amid health care worker shortage

A public health official says First Nations in northern Ontario are in a “very dire situation” as they deal with a surge in COVID-19 cases and an ongoing shortage of health-care workers.

Dr. Lloyd Douglas with the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority says rising cases in remote First Nation communities in the north are putting an “additional burden” on health-care services that were already strained before the pandemic.

In Sandy Lake First Nation, more than one seventh of the population — or 613 people out of roughly 3,500 people — had COVID-19 as of Monday.

The chief of the First Nation says her community currently has about half of the 12 nurses it’s supposed to.

Chief Delores Kakegamic says the staff shortage has meant nurses have recently been limited to tending to health emergencies.

Douglas says all levels of government must work together to put plans and policies in place to maintain the resources necessary to provide adequate health care to First Nation communities.

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