Creating community space to face COVID-19

Community health infrastructure is key to First Nations’ response to Coronavirus. Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) has been working closely with First Nations to ensure they have what they need to prepare for and prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

A community’s ability to respond to a public health crisis centers on its health facility, where community members can seek health information and advice from medical professionals, get tested and receive treatment.

In support of each community’s preparedness, ISC has asked communities to monitor their:

ISC has been working with communities to assess the availability and suitability of physical space that could be used in the event of a community outbreak, as part of their overall pandemic planning. Through this process, First Nations communities identify existing facilities such as band offices that can be used as temporary spaces for triage or screening purposes, isolation of community members, or accommodation units for health care staff. ISC then provides the community with funding, supplies and equipment to ensure the re-tooled space is operational and ready for its intended purpose during an outbreak response.

If existing spaces are not available for re-tooling, ISC provides funding for the purchase of mobile health structures, which they can procure directly through vendors. Mobile health structures must meet the high technical specifications for use as clinical and accommodations spaces required to respond to a disease outbreak.

As of August 19, ISC has mobilized a total of 156 structures to serve the surge infrastructure needs of communities. Of these, ISC has:

The remaining 79 mobile structures have been purchased directly by 40 communities to serve their surge infrastructure needs.

Photo of a vestabule of mobile health structure.
Vestabule of mobile health structure; Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, Deschambault Lake, Sask. 2020 ©ProMetal Industries Ltd.
Photo of a negative pressure isolation section of mobile health structure, with beds.
Negative pressure isolation section of mobile health structure, with beds; Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, Deschambault Lake, Sask. 2020 ©ProMetal Industries Ltd.

Re-tooling community space

First Nations communities have been open to exploring creative solutions to respond to the spread of the coronavirus. Those solutions look different in every community across the country. For instance, many communities in Saskatchewan have converted their local schools into clinical and isolation spaces that can accommodate many patients, should the need arise.

Using existing community spaces for surge health infrastructure has been the preferred option in First Nations communities during the initial wave of the pandemic because, in the event of a crisis:

Because of the easing of public health measures and gradual reopening of public spaces, schools in particular, this option has become less feasible as the pandemic evolves. 

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