SASK NDP calls for immediate action to contain COVID-19 outbreak in Northern communities, increase vaccination rates

LA RONGE – Today, Official NDP Opposition Health Critic Vicki Mowat and Official NDP Opposition Critic for Northern Affairs Doyle Vermette, sounded the alarm on the current crisis in Hatchet Lake Denesuline Nation and demanded that the government immediately deploy resources to help the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority. 

“This is a crisis, and this government needs to act. Long-standing housing and infrastructure shortages in the community are making the problem worse,” said Vermette. “Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority (NITHA), Indigenous leaders and the frontline workers have been doing what they can with the resources they have but this Premier and his health minister need to stop sitting on their hands and do something.” 

Over the last couple of months, vaccination rates in the Far North health regions have been lagging behind those in the rest of the province. Despite heroic efforts by frontline staff in Northern communities, multiple outbreaks have occurred over the last few weeks. Most severely has been the outbreak declared at Hatchet Lake Denesuline Nation, currently with 109 cases, which had fewer than 10 cases just over a week ago. The Prince Albert Grand Council has asked both federal and provincial governments to immediately address the crisis

“This community needs help now but the Premier and Minister Merriman have largely been missing in action. Due to the lack of resources on the ground, this requires an all-of-government approach,” said Mowat. “What’s concerning is we’re hearing over 20% of the cases are Variants of Concern, possibly the Delta variant, which we know spreads far quicker than other variants. We need to do everything we can to get the resources and supports needed to this community and begin to implement a Last Mile Strategy to address the lagging vaccination rates in the North.”

The Official Opposition is calling on the government to work with NITHA to immediately deploy resources and supports to aid in the crisis.

  • Deploy mobile vaccination teams to vaccinate those who have yet to be vaccinated
  • Work with local leadership to increase vaccinations rates across the North
  • Address the looming crisis around lack of patient isolation space and the potential need for ventilators and medical evacuation
  • Provide NITHA with rapid-testing capacity to fully understand the scope of the crisis
  • Work with Federal counterparts to secure funding for the expansion of the Hatchet Lake Health Center
  • Work long-term on addressing overcrowding and housing shortages within the community

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