The B.C. provincial government has announced new and expanded resources to service rural, remote and Indigenous communities battling COVID-19 across the province.
In an announcement on Monday, Premier John Horgan and Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser announced an expanded medical transportation fleet to service remote and Indigenous communities.
This framework includes the addition of 55 new ambulances throughout the province, and seven fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters for medical transport.
It also creates housing options for people looking to self-isolate near their families while staying in their home communities.
The province will also be deploying faster COVID-19 testing technology to these regions through this initiative, including culturally safe contact tracing that respects privacy in small communities.
The faster testing methods underway include GeneXpert test kits, which take less than 45 minutes to complete.
Many of these instruments are already being used in First Nations Health Authority, Northern Health, Interior Health, Vancouver Coastal Health, and Fraser Health regions.
According to a statement from the province, more GeneXpert instruments will arrive in the coming weeks.
“Indigenous communities have been harder hit in past pandemics and are vulnerable to COVID-19. Elders in particular, as critical knowledge keepers and holders of language, culture and teachings, must be protected,” said Minister Scott Fraser.
“Having plans and supports tailored to the unique circumstances and challenges in remote Indigenous communities will support these communities in caring for their residents.”
This new framework will also provide access to Virtual Doctor of the Day, a program that connects First Nations members and their families in remote communities to a doctor or nurse practitioner using videoconferencing.
Leaders within these rural and Indigenous communities will determine how these services will be implemented in their regions.
For some useful background on remote, rural, and First Nations medical transportation issues, this podcast featuring a conversation with Drs. Trina Larsen-Soles and Ed Marquis is enlightening.