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North's health care emergency a clear message to Canada: Angus

James Bay communities are 'far from a full complement of nursing care,' says Grand Chief
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Charlie Angus

TIMMINS — The health emergency in James Bay is a clear message to Canada, says Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus.

Due to an overall shortage of health professionals, services and infrastructure, Mushkegowuk Council declared a state of emergency for health-care services earlier this week.

Mushkegowuk is looking for the full support of Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) and the Ministry of Health to allocate the needed resources for infrastructure. They want the investments to include supporting elements for a fully operational primary care model that includes access to equipment, information technology, systems and process, sustainability and staffing.

As part of the emergency strategy, the Mushkegowuk Council of Chiefs is also exploring filing a human rights complaint.

Angus said he is reaching out to the Mushkegowuk Grand Chief, the federal Minister of Health, and his provincial colleagues about the situation.

Emergency care, routine medical appointments, prenatal care, maternal health and follow-up care for people recovering from surgeries are some of the services affected, said Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Alison Linklater. 

The government can only provide two or three nurses in a community of 2,000 people, the system has collapsed, said Linklater.

"Our regional health authority is helping to add some additional nurses, but we are far from a full complement of nursing care in any of our communities," she added.

She said that the communities have asked for health support for a long time, but the situation continues to get worse. 

"It seems that remote communities are not the priority for either Indigenous Services Canada or the Ontario Ministry of Health," she said.

Along with reaching out to the Linklater, Angus said he has worked with Kashechewan on the nursing problem.

"I am very, very concerned that the community is forced to declare a state of emergency. We know the health situation has been deteriorating," he said.

Though there are many underlying problems, he said that getting frontline nurses is an urgent measure.

"But this is a very clear message to Canada that the underfunded health services in James Bay are putting families at risk, and we need action immediately," he said.

He thinks both the federal and provincial governments are responsible for the situation.

He emphasized that both governments must step up.

"It is just really not acceptable in a country like Canada that Mushkegowuk has to declare a state of emergency in order to get healthcare. There is something fundamentally wrong here," he added.

Currently, Kashechewan and Fort Albany First nation are facing challenges.

"This is also a good time to raise the issues of the lack of medical services that make it difficult for people to get proper health care in the James Bay region," Angus said.

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About the Author: Jinsh Rayaroth, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Jinsh Rayaroth covers diversity issues under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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