Auditor General says health services on remote First Nations are sub-standard

OTTAWA – A damning report by the Auditor General (AG) has revealed that remote First Nations communities in Ontario and Manitoba are being forced to seek healthcare services from substandard clinics with undertrained nurses.

“Once again, we have another report showing how this Conservative government continues to fail Indigenous peoples in Canada,” said NDP Aboriginal Affairs critic Niki Ashton (Churchill). “It is completely unacceptable that this is how Canadian healthcare is being delivered in the 21st century.”

It is clear from the AG that the government is making no effort to allocate resources based on need and has no way of determining how service delivery in First Nations communities is comparable to services in other remote areas in Canada.

“Jordan’s Principle, which was supposed to deal with the inter-jurisdictional challenges of healthcare services in Indigenous communities, has not been implemented,” said NDP critic for Aboriginal Heath Carol Hughes (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing). “The Conservatives axed Aboriginal healthcare funding three years ago, and today we are seeing the consequences of those cuts.”

Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde says the Government of Canada must act on the recommendations in the AG’s report issued April 28 and work with First Nations to improve access to health services in remote First Nation communities.

“The findings of this report confirm what we have been saying for a number of years – health care services provided to First Nations people is totally inadequate,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde.  “Too many of our people are dealing with under-funded and inadequate health services.  We need to work now to start closing the gap in the quality of life between First Nations and other Canadians.  This is about the health and safety of our children and families.  The recommendations in today’s report set out some practical steps for Health Canada and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, and they must work with First Nations to improve access to health care.”

As part of its Spring 2015 Reports, the Office of the Auditor General released a report on Access to Health Care for Remote First Nation Communities.  The research, findings and 11 recommendations are focused the areas of nursing stations, medical transportation benefits, support allocation and comparable access and coordination of health services among jurisdictions.  The findings show an historical allocation of resources rather than an approach based on the needs of the community, as well as significant deficiencies in training, facilities, administration and documentation of services.  The assessments were done in remote First Nation communities in Ontario and Manitoba looked specifically at access to health care, not quality nor adequacy of resources.

“While limited in its scope, the problems and challenges identified in this report are profound and with a subsequent examination of the quality and resourcing of health services would identify further areas for investment and improvement,” said AFN Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy who chairs the national Chiefs Committee on Health.  “There is an existing protocol between AFN and Health Canada’s First Nation and Inuit Health Branch that provide opportunity for follow up on the report’s recommendations and we will be looking to actively engage in the development and implementation of an action plan.”

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