Nfld. & Labrador

Innu children must be treated at home, says doctor

A pediatrician who cared for dozens of Innu children a decade ago says new cases of gas-sniffing should see the children treated at home in Natuashish.
Dr. Ted Rosales treated Innu children for solvent abuse in St. John's a decade ago. (CBC)

A pediatrician who cared for dozens of Innu children who were sniffing gas a decade ago says this time, Innu children abusing solvents should be treated at home in Natuashish instead of being sent away.

Dr. Ted Rosales, who has specialized in treating children harmed by prenatal exposure to alcohol, worked with dozens of young Innu who were sent to the Grace Hospital in St. John's in 2001 for treatment of solvent abuse.

Rosales said that round of treatment didn't work because the children were returned to the place where the deep-rooted problems that led to gas sniffing still exist.

"Unless we do something with the family, the relatives and the community, then these children are not going to improve because they go back to the same kind of deprived environment," said Rosales.  "This is not going to work."

Doctor calls for new solutions

Rosales added that many of the children sniffing gas were damaged by alcohol exposure before they were born, and he said treatment should take their long-term needs into account

Rosales has called on governments to find new solutions, but as of late July 2012, the provincial government had sent 12 children from Natuashish for out-of-province treatment. 

Rosales said he was overcome with sadness at this week's images of children sniffing gas in Natuashish, and he added that some of them are the children of individuals he treated in St. John's. 

"I felt really bad because these children deserve better."