B.C.’s top doctor has signed an agreement to provide more information on COVID-19 cases to a coalition of First Nations.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province will provide the Heiltsuk Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council Member Nations and Tsilhqot’in National Government with frequent reports on COVID-19 cases in areas near First Nations communities.
A statement from Heiltsuk First Nation said the “agreements’ preamble makes clear that the nations do not view them as providing completely satisfactory disclosure, and they believe systemic change must still occur in B.C.’s health-care system.”
The coalition hopes the move will help First Nations make more informed decisions on safety measures.
“This hard-fought agreement improves our access to COVID-19 proximate case information in the middle of a pandemic,” said Marilyn Slett, chief councillor of the Heiltsuk Nation.
“With more detailed and timely information, we can offer improved risk assessments and guidance to our community members.”
Henry will also outline certain thresholds that must be met before First Nations can disclose the number of cases in a community.
A report released last week by former children’s commissioner Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond found that First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in B.C. do not have equal access to primary care and preventative services, which has translated into life-long poorer health outcomes.
— With files from Simon Little