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B.C. adds health-care resources to support rural, remote and Indigenous communities amid the COVID-19 crisis.

B.C. announces support for rural, remote and Indigenous communities amid COVID-19 pandemic
Premier John Horgan announces new measures to assist British Columbians living outside of major city centres to help protect them against the novel coronavirus, including increased medical transport and virtual healthcare services.

The provincial government is bolstering transport fleet and resources for rural, remote and Indigenous communities in B.C. amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The province has been working on the plan for years and fast-tracked the announcement to deal with the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

B.C. Premier John Horgan said people in rural, remote and Indigenous communities face challenges when it comes to health care.

B.C. Indigenous minister on new COVID-19 framework to protect higher-needs communities
B.C. Indigenous minister on new COVID-19 framework to protect higher-needs communities

“This new collaborative framework will bring immediate relief to these communities, including a commitment to moving patients to the critical care they need at a moment’s notice. This will help our work to stop the spread of COVID-19, while supporting better health outcomes into the future.”

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The plan includes 55 additional ambulances to connect communities to existing health-care centres. The investment also includes five new air-based medical transportation options including helicopters and planes.

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“We are ready to move patients at a moment’s notice especially at this difficult time of COVID-19,” Horgan said.

The framework was developed through a partnership between the First Nations Health Authority, Northern Health and Provincial Health Services Authority.

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The province is still working on details for additional housing options for people looking to self-isolate near their families as well as new and faster COVID-19 testing.

One of the challenges is providing culturally safe contact tracing that respects privacy in small communities.

“We must use distinctions-based approaches that honour the unique and diverse experiences amongst Indigenous peoples, recognizing that First Nations, Métis, those living in rural, remote and urban areas are different from each other and bring different perspectives and needs,” B.C. aboriginal health physician adviser Dr. Danièle Behn Smith said.

“It’s not just about the services we deliver, it’s about how we deliver them.”

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Health official on potentially ‘culturally devastating’ impact of COVID-19 on B.C.’s Indigenous people

Access to the Virtual Doctor of the Day program, which allows First Nations members and their families in remote communities to connect with an out-of-town health-are provider via videoconferencing, is being expanded.

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Local leadership will determine how these services operate in their communities.

“This addresses both the urgent short-term responses needed to support communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and the necessary long-term upgrades to health-care access for rural First Nations populations,” First Nations Health Authority board chair Colleen Erickson said.