The chief executive officer of Matawa First Nations says the communities they represent don’t have the resources to properly prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak.
“Our people were not at the stage where they were able to handle this pandemic,” said David Paul Achneepineskum. “They’ve already been dealing with crisis after crisis, in terms of youth suicides, opioids, boil water advisories, and they just didn’t have the resources to … begin to plan out an effective way on how to deal with [the pandemic].”
Achneepineskum said there’s a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the nine communities Matawa represents.
“They have limited supplies that have been slowly flowing in, but it’s not enough to meet their needs,” he said. “Our communities are serviced by various health organizations, so it’s not well-coordinated.
“We try to help out as much as we can.”
‘Very stressful out there’
He said efforts are underway to purchase some equipment from a private company, but more financial resources are needed.
Achneepineskum said the pandemic is causing concern in the nine Matawa communities, six of which are currently under lock-down.
“That was the only option they had,” Achneepineskum said of the lock-downs. “I believe it’s working, but it’s a matter of how long is the lock-down going to take?
“They’re worried about the possibility of a second wave coming, that’s going to be even more detrimental,” he added. “It’s really very stressful out there, and a lot of people are very stressed out.”
Achneepineskum said the communities have been speaking with federal government representatives about the problems.
“I’ve voiced our concerns to [Thunder Bay-Superior North MP and Canadian health minister] Patty Hajdu,” Achneepineskum said. “She’s been in contact with our chiefs, personally, and I’m glad she’s doing that.”
“I’m glad she’s taking the time to speak to our communities, our chiefs, as well as to advocate for our First Nations.”
You can hear the full interview with David Paul Achneepineskum on CBC’s Superior Morning here.