B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser speaks to Indigenous leaders from across the province at their annual “all chiefs” meeting in Vancouver, Nov. 6, 2019. (B.C. government)

COVID-19: B.C. adds 55 ambulances, air support for remote health care

Faster testing, transport promised for rural, Indigenous communities

The B.C. government is adding 55 ambulances and additional plane and helicopter flight capacity to help control the spread of COVID-19 in remote and Indigenous communities, Premier John Horgan says.

Horgan and Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser announced the effort April 20.

“We’re committed to moving patients at a moment’s notice, particularly in this time of COVID-19,” Horgan said.

B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser said the new framework for remote response is prioritizing rapid testing, self-isolation and medical transport for people who need hospital care not available where they live.

The additional ground ambulances and five helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft are being activated for B.C.’s coronavirus pandemic response plan, but they will be kept in place for long-term improvement in remote communities’ access to higher-level health care, said Susan Wannamaker, executive vice-president of the Provincial Health Services Authority.

The pandemic has accelerated the province’s efforts in recent years to reach out to remote communities with health care. The new framework includes housing options for people looking to self-isolate near their families, faster COVID-19 testing and “culturally safe contact tracing that respects privacy in small communities,” the health ministry said in a statement.

B.C. has had at least one COVID-19 case on a remote reserve, the Blueberry First Nations near Fort St. John. The mayor of Alert Bay, a village on Cormorant Island off northern Vancouver Island, has also tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Cormorant Island is also home to about 450 members of the ‘Namgis First Nation, about the same population as Alert Bay.

RELATED: Remote Vancouver Island village has first case, the mayor

RELATED: Blueberry River community tracks COVID-19 contacts

Some of B.C.’s remote communities have taken their own steps to limit visitors to essential trips, and to restrict travel. Among the latest is Port Renfrew and the neighbouring Pacheedaht Nation on the west side of Vancouver Island. It has a local population of about 340 people and has restricted access to Port Renfrew’s one gas station and one grocery store.

“Not only have we asked that non-residents don’t visit the region, but we also are asking our residents not to try to leave the community,” said Kyle Van Delft, emergency program coordinator for the Pacheedaht Nation. “Should the virus start transmission within the community, the effects would be devastating, especially for such a small population.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19: RDN utility bills in the mail, deadline extended

Residents given until Sept. 8 to settle accounts

RCMP arrest suspect after attempted break-and-enter in Parksville

Resident provides description, cops nab 46-year-old man

Perfect Storm Group pushes for community-owned and operated primary care facility

Seeks proposals for development of feasibility study for ’Oceanside Campus of Healthcare’

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

Young killer whale untangles itself from trap line off Nanaimo shore

DFO marine mammal rescue unit arrived as whale broke free from prawn trap line

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Friendly Cove and Kyuquot will remain closed until further notice

Transition of other B.C. communities will be monitored before a decision to ease restrictions

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

Gold River organizes a shop local initiative to creatively boost economy

Local purchases can earn shoppers $200 gift certificates to be spent on businesses within Gold River

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

Most Read