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Nurse brought COVID-19 to facility in Saskatchewan’s far north, says FSIN

Nurse brought COVID-19 to facility in Saskatchewan’s far north, says FSIN
WATCH: A health-care worker has infected a First Nation community in Saskatchewan's far north, says the FSIN.

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) says a COVID-19 case confirmed in northern Saskatchewan on Friday was the result of an infected nurse bringing it to the community.

According to the FSIN, the nurse drove up from Saskatoon to Stony Rapids on April 5 and was treating members of the community the next day, including those in long-term care, seniors and vulnerable people in hospital.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Supporting seniors hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic

The Athabasa Health Authority confirmed on Facebook that a person in Stony Rapids recently tested positive for COVID-19 and is in self-quarantine.

“We now have four to five patients in our long-term care and palliative care in isolation awaiting test results,” said Black Lake First Nation Chief Coreen Sayazie in a statement.

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She said if the virus worsens or spreads in the far north, they will hold the provincial government responsible and will seek legal action.

READ MORE: Northern Saskatchewan First Nations communities concerned over lack of PPE for health-care workers

This is the second time within a month, a health-care worker has infected a First Nation community in Saskatchewan’s far north. The first incident took place in early March in Southend, Sask. which was confirmed to paNOW by Medical Health Officer Dr. Nnamdi Ndubuka.

“This is now another case of a provincial health-care nurse bringing COVID-19 into our First Nations. Southend should have been the example that the province and Saskatchewan Health Authority learned from,” said Sayazie.

As of Saturday, there are seven confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the far north.

The FSIN, along with Fond du Lac and Black Lake First Nations, is demanding immediate action from the province. This includes putting measures in place to ensure health-care workers servicing First Nations have been tested for COVID-19 prior to their arrival, and that health-care workers in the far north are properly equipped with PPE.

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Premier Scott Moe has discussed the situation with FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron “and fully understands the seriousness of this matter to First Nations and residents of Northern Saskatchewan” reads a statement to Global News from the premier’s office.

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The premier and the Minister of Health Jim Reiter have directed the Saskatchewan Health Authority to work with the Athabasca Health Authority to provide a full explanation regarding the situation. They are also asked to provide a detailed summary of the protocols that were in place to protect the staff and residents at the facility.

The government also says they are ensuring that the applicable steps to test, trace and support residents or staff that may have been exposed to COVID-19 are being taken.

“COVID-19 represents a serious risk to all Saskatchewan residents, particularly those that are elderly, immunocompromised, or living with preexisting health conditions,” says the government of Saskatchewan in a statement.

“Our government is seriously considering a number of further measures to protect our most vulnerable citizens living in long-term care facilities across the province.”

READ MORE: 3,075 coronavirus deaths forecast for Saskatchewan in low-range scenario: SHA

FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron is asking to “be at the table” with the premier and the SHA “to come up with ways of working to fight this pandemic together.”

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“We are a part of Saskatchewan,” Cameron said in a statement. “We contribute millions to the economy every year, but we are not at these meetings. We must work together to stop the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve.”

Health-care workers make up 10.5 per cent of Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 cases

Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer says the province is tracking health-care workers infected with COVID-19 really closely.

“Like other essential workers, they get exposed in the community or at work,” said Dr. Saqib Shahab, during a teleconference on Saturday.

As of Saturday, 30 health-care workers have been infected with COVID-19, 11 of which got the virus at a curling bonspiel in Edmonton. Health-care workers now make up 10.5 per cent of the province’s cases.

Plans to segregate coronavirus patients in rural, remote Saskatchewan hospitals: SHA
Plans to segregate coronavirus patients in rural, remote Saskatchewan hospitals: SHA

According to Shahab, the SHA is taking specific steps to ensure health-care workers don’t become a spreader of the virus.

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He said the province has not seen any transmission when appropriate PPE is being used, but he says the SHA will continue to monitor this area closely.

PPE in First Nations

In a statement to Global News, the Ministry of Health says it has been working with multiple health agencies to ensure an effective response to COVID-19 in communities across Saskatchewan. This includes Indigenous Services Canada and the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority (NITHA).

Shipments of supplies have been sent to 15 southern First Nations on April 9, and a delivery to NITHA’s office in Prince Albert was scheduled for April 10, says the Ministry of Health.

The ministry says they also provided urgently needed items such as testing swabs to address immediate needs, and developed a “Daily Fitness for Work Screening” for health-care providers.

“Saskatchewan healthcare workers are working diligently to provide care for Saskatchewan residents during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement read. “They have a critical role to play in identifying, reporting and managing potential cases of COVID-19.”

SHA modelling has line of defense, line of attack
SHA modelling has line of defense, line of attack

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Health officials caution against all international travel. All international travellers returning to Saskatchewan are required to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.