Saskatchewan

Northern leaders say health-care worker in Stony Rapids tests positive for COVID-19

Leaders in Saskatchewan's far north are expressing outrage that a health-care worker allegedly brought COVID-19 to Stony Rapids.

Athabasca Health Authority won't confirm; local chief threatens legal action if virus spreads

COVID-19 test kits are pictured on March 11, the day the WHO declared coronavirus a pandemic. Northern leaders say COVID-19 has reached the community of Stony Rapid and are worried it could spread into vulnerable populations. (Evan Tsuyoshi Mitsui/CBC)

Leaders in Saskatchewan's far north are expressing outrage that a health-care worker allegedly brought COVID-19 to Stony Rapids.

Darryl Galusha, CEO of the Athabasca Health Authority, confirmed a case was present in Stony Rapids. The health authority took to social media to announce the case on Friday. 

He said the case was identified on Friday night, but due to privacy restrictions, he said he wouldn't confirm if the test came from a health-care worker or not.

A news release from the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), published Saturday, alleged that a health-care worker who had worked in Saskatoon before travelling north for work tested positive for COVID-19 while in Stony Rapids.

Black Lake Denesuline Nation Chief Coreen Sayazie said people in a long-term care facility and in palliative care have had to self-isolate after allegedly being exposed to the health-care worker.

The Denesuline Nation is located about 20 kilometres southeast of Stony Rapids.

"If this worsens or spreads in our communities, we, the Dene people of the Far North, will hold the provincial government responsible and seek legal action," Sayazie said in a statement.

"This is now another case of a provincial health-care nurse bringing COVID-19 into our First Nations." (A health-care worker in the community of Southend tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from international travel last month.)

Sayazie and other leaders quoted in the FSIN news release called for better measures from the Saskatchewan Health Authority to ensure health-care workers who have been exposed to COVID-19 are properly tested before being allowed to work in northern communities.

Fond du Lac Denesuline Nation Chief Louie Mercredi said his community had done all it could to prevent COVID-19 from reaching its borders.

He called for personal protective equipment to be immediately shipped to northern communities to protect residents there.

An emailed statement from the premier's office said Premier Scott Moe discussed the situation with FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron. 

"The premier and the minister of Health have directed the Saskatchewan Health Authority to work with the Athabasca Health Authority to provide a full explanation regarding this situation, as well as a detailed summary of the protocols that were in place to protect the staff and residents at this facility," the statement said, without naming the facility. It added the province is "seriously considering" further measures to protect citizens living in long-term care facilities. 

On Friday, the province said there were 30 health-care workers in the province who had tested positive for COVID-19, including 11 front-line health-care workers who tested positive after attending a curling bonspiel in Edmonton.

The province has not disclosed where the health-care workers were working or what jobs they were doing.

About the Author

Bryan Eneas

Reporter

Bryan Eneas is a journalist from the Penticton Indian Band currently based in Regina, Saskatchewan. Before joining CBC, he reported in central and northern Saskatchewan. Send news tips to Bryan.Eneas@cbc.ca.

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