Health issues of remote First Nations in Ontario not taken seriously, says Deputy Chief


The deputy chief of the Fort Albany First Nation in remote northern Ontario says health issues in her community are not taken seriously and members often do not receive proper care until they do not travel elsewhere.

Charlotte Nakoochee gave the example of a senior who discovered he had a tumor only after traveling to Timmins, Ontario, a two-hour flight from Fort Albany, located along the James Bay coast.

It’s like they don’t take our people seriously.– Charlotte Nakoochee, Deputy Chief of the Fort Albany First Nation

Nakoochee said the elder visited the clinic in Fort Albany several times, but the nurse found nothing wrong.

“A few weeks ago, he was in Timmins for other things, and because he wasn’t feeling well, he decided to go” to the emergency department of a hospital, she said.

“I feel like it could have been caught sooner if they had paid attention, if they had taken his concerns about his health seriously,” Nakoochee added. “Sometimes it’s just embarrassing not to take our people seriously.”

More than 2,000 people live in Fort Albany and the nearby Kashechewan First Nation, but fly-in communities lack full-time doctors. A substitute is brought in about five times a month.

They have a small clinic with a few nurses and a nurse practitioner who also flies into the community, but Nakoochee said she is under-resourced.

“We don’t have the proper medical equipment to properly diagnose our members in the community and even when referred out of town, they either like to go for treatment,” she said.

Nakoochee said it could take up to two weeks for a person to get a doctor’s appointment. If a serious problem arises, they must travel to Ontario cities like Timmins or Sudbury by medical evacuation.

Alison Linklater, Grand Chief of the Mushkegowuk Council, which represents seven Cree First Nations in Ontario’s Far North, says equitable access to health care is a priority for her. (Submitted by Alison Linklater)

Alison Linklater, the newly elected Grand Chief of the Mushkegowuk Council, which represents seven Cree First Nations in Ontario’s Far North, said equitable access to health care is a top priority for her.

“Letting an elder go through this is not right,” Linklater said.

“In our culture, we take good care of our elders. And for that to happen, it’s very, very sad.”

None of these communities along James Bay have permanent doctors.– France Gélinas, MP for Nickel Belt, NDP Health Critic for Ontario

Linklater is a former nurse and consultant, working behind the scenes to secure funding for mental health services.

She said she was connecting with health care providers in her area to start a dialogue and work together “to really find solutions to fix our health care systems locally and regionally.”

France Gélinas, MPP for Nickel Belt, says inequitable access to health services in remote First Nations has been a problem for the 15 years she has served as the NDP’s health critic for Ontario. (Roger Corriveau/CBC)

Nickel Belt MP France Gélinas said inequitable access to health services in remote First Nations has been an issue for the 15 years she served as the NDP’s health critic.

Gélinas said doctors normally fly into communities for short periods. They often face cultural barriers there, she said, and don’t know their patients because they’ve never been established for long.

“None of these communities along James Bay have permanent doctors.”

Gélinas said First Nations have come up with health care models that would work in their communities, but the changes are never implemented.

“At the provincial level, they say it’s a federal responsibility, and the federal government [government] said, “We will have to wait and see what the provincial government [government] done,” she said.

“Nobody takes the lead. Nobody is proactive.”

Shared responsibilities

According to Indigenous Services Canada, the federal, provincial and territorial governments “share a degree of jurisdiction” over health care services for Indigenous peoples.

“Indigenous peoples are included in federal tax transfer per capita funding allocations and have the right to access insured provincial and territorial health services as residents of a province or territory,” the document states. . on its website.

“Indigenous Services Canada directly funds or provides services to First Nations and Inuit that complement those provided by provinces and territories, including primary health care, health promotion and supplementary health benefits.

In an email to CBC News, Ontario’s patient ombudsman said he currently has no complaints about access to health care in remote First Nations.

The Patient Ombudsman helps resolve complaints from Ontario patients or their caregivers about their experiences in hospitals, long-term care homes, and home and community support service agencies.