Saskatoon

Former MP among more northern Sask. residents denied medical services in south

More stories have emerged from northern Saskatchewan residents, including former MP Georgina Jolibois, who say they have been denied medical appointments in the southern part of the province after an outbreak of COVID-19 cases in the far north region.  

Georgina Jolibois says northern residents being treated unfairly

A blockade restricting travel in and out of northwest Saskatchewan. Residents are still allowed to travel south for medical appointments, including those that are non-urgent. (Submitted by Raymond Dauvin)

More stories have emerged from northern Saskatchewan residents, including former MP Georgina Jolibois, who say they have been denied medical appointments in the southern part of the province after an outbreak of COVID-19 cases in the far north region.

Northern residents starting raising concerns last week, saying they were denied appointments for optometry and physiotherapy because they were from the north. Some said they were also turned away from hotel rooms. 

La Loche resident Georgina Jolibois, a former MP for the federal riding of Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River and former Mayor of La Loche, said she was denied an optometrist appointment Wednesday morning. 

"It is a humiliating experience, especially when I've followed the rules, I followed the protocol, I'm helping to flatten the curve, practicing social distancing," she said, adding that she has been a customer of the business for about 20 years. 

"It's just a very uncomfortable situation to be in." 

Jolibois said she was told by the optometry business that she could not get an appointment until travel restrictions between the north and the south of the province are lifted.

Travel restrictions do apply to the northwest, where there are currently 55 active cases, but residents are allowed to travel south for medical appointments — including those that are non-urgent.

La Loche resident and former MP Georgina Jolibois says the optometry business she has been visiting for 20 years said she could not make an appointment until travel restrictions — which do not prohibit travel for medical appointments — are lifted. (Submitted by Georgina Jolibois)

Sheila Spence, executive director of Saskatchewan Association of Optometrists, said last week she understood that northerners could only travel south for urgent medical care.

She said at the time the association doesn't condone turning away patients based only on the fact that they are from the north. She said it's likely optometrists are dealing with a lot of backlog.

Access should be provided: SHA official

Susan Shaw, the chief medical health officer for the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), clarified the authority's stance at a news conference Wednesday.

She said she is aware of some medical services turning away northern residents, but none that are part of the SHA. 

"People should be able to access services regardless of location as long as they are asymptomatic and the risks are managed," Shaw said. 

"Absolutely in an emergency or urgent care situation then we wouldn't want any barriers to exist for anybody."

Jolibois said northern residents are being treated unfairly and discriminated against. 

"Many, many people are being denied … and my worry is that people that need to get to their appointments should be allowed to go and get the help they need."

She said Premier Scott Moe could help "tremendously" by addressing the issue both behind the scenes and by addressing it publicly.

La Loche resident says she was treated like 'walking disease'

La Loche resident Georgina Park-Janvier said she started calling dental clinics down south after her son started experiencing severe pain from wisdom teeth. 

She said the first clinic she called was willing to take her appointment until she declared where she was from. Then then the answer became no. 

"The way she said it was like we are all [a] walking disease," said Park-Janvier. 

"The next few places I called my first question was 'do you guys take in anybody from the north, especially La Loche,' and the response was no." 

Park-Janvier said she tried clinics in Prince Albert, Meadow Lake, North Battleford and Saskatoon and was told multiple times her son's case would not be taken.

"Just because we're from the north and we have COVID cases doesn't mean everybody is affected," said Park-Janvier. 

"There's people in town who are being cautious ... this is a town where we are a big family but there's a few that make us look bad."

She said she eventually gave up calling, having concluded no clinic would take her son's case. 

Park-Janvier is now worried her daughter, who is pregnant with a due date in one month, could be affected. 

"How long are we going to be denied?" said Park-Janvier. 

"Is she going to be denied medical services? Is she going to be denied rooms?"

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