(Ottawa/January 14, 2016) Representatives from the Algonquins of Barriere Lake are in Ottawa today, protesting bureaucratic and obstructionist practices of Health Canada. Recent changes to the administration of medical transportation services in the community are leading to delays, loss of access to transportation and gross inefficiencies in the use of funds. The community is angered and frustrated that the Ministry’s red tape is putting some of their most vulnerable community members at risk and are demanding they be given back the authority to manage their own transportation budget.
As part of the health services provided to this and other Indigenous communities across Canada, Health Canada pays for transportation to medical appointments outside of the community, which is 3 hours north of Ottawa and which is serviced with a basic health clinic staffed by Health Canada nurses. Until recently, the travel expenses were efficiently managed by community-level health centre staff using drivers contracted from the community.
Starting in the New Year, Health Canada is requiring pre-authorizations by federal bureaucrats for transportation to medical appointments, and is withholding payments to the contractual drivers. These unilateral changes are creating unnecessary delays, leading to people missing appointments, and putting their health at risk. In one case a newborn requiring urgent attention in Maniwaki, QC was delayed departure from the community by over 4 hours while waiting for approval for the trip. Fortunately the baby was fine on this instance, but the waits, delays and missed appointments are creating a tremendous amount of stress for the community.
Casey Ratt, Chief of the Alognquins of Barriere Lake, insists that the community can manage the medical transportation funds. “We can handle this issue locally, do it more efficiently, be more responsive and have it cost a lot less than the current mess created by Health Canada” stated Chief Ratt.
Health Canada’s approval requirements include 48 hours’ notice, and disclosure of personal medical information, information that the community’s nursing staff do not want to provide, fearing a breach of their obligations to protect privacy.
“This issue has led to a real loss of trust between us and Health Canada” said Chief Ratt “We have heard some encouraging words from Prime Minister Trudeau these last few months, and appreciate his statement that for his government there is no relationship more important than the one with Indigenous peoples. Well it’s time for the Prime Minister and Ministers Philpott and Bennet to live up to these commitments”
Time and Location of Rally:
12 PM, January 14, 2016
70 Columbine Drive, Ottawa ON