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Health Watch - July 2013


Compiled by Shari Narine







Manitoba chiefs call for reform in health care

The death of Lisa Tssessaze, 30, who collapsed on the floor of a nursing station in Lac Brochet and later died, despite desperate pleas by phone from nurses to airlift the woman to see a doctor in Thompson, has rallied chiefs from both the Southern Chiefs Organization and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs in a call for a sweeping review of Aboriginal health care. The federal government issued a statement that it would team up with the province to specifically review Tssessaze’s death. Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, which represents 30 northern First Nations, lodged a formal complaint with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba about Tssessaze’s treatment. Provincial Health Minister Theresa Oswald said focusing on Tssessaze will not fix health-care services for Aboriginals and said her department was willing to work with the federal government toward that end.

Study provides insight into suicide risk factors for Inuit

A study recently released by the McGill Group for Suicide Studies looked at risk factors associated with suicide among Inuit in Nunavut. The study looked at the social meanings, activities and detailed life information of 120 Nunavut Inuit who died by suicide between 2003 to 2006. “This is the first study of its kind where research has examined in-depth patterns and risk factors associated with Inuit and suicides,” said Minister of Health Keith Peterson. The study cites conclusions that are parallel to information in the Nunavut Suicide Prevention Strategy, such as the rapid increase in suicidal behaviour over recent decades, especially among young people, as a probable result of a change in the intensity of what Inuit are faced with socially. The study also refers to factors such as intergenerational trauma and increased rates of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, violence, substance abuse, and the association of difficult life experiences in conjunction with the onset of mental disorders. “The findings from this comprehensive study help us understand more about the painful question of why people choose to take their own lives in Nunavut,” said Jack Anawak, vice-president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

Heart attacks and hospital stays focus of CIHI study

A report from the Canadian Institutes for Health Information is considered the first to look at Aboriginal peoples and the hospital care they get after heart attacks. The report says First Nations and Inuit people typically have heart attacks earlier in life than non-Aboriginal people and that First Nations people who have heart attacks are more likely to have other conditions that raise their heart health risks. The report says First Nations people are less likely than non-Aboriginals to have standard preventive procedures after heart attacks, such as angioplasty, but they appear to do as well in hospital as non-Aboriginals, with no higher rate of death within 30 days of the heart attack. Study findings are based on seven years of data, from 2004-05 to 2010-11. The resulting CIHI analysis suggests that those living in areas of high concentrations of First Nations and Inuit people are more likely to have a first heart attack seven to 10 years earlier, respectively, than people from areas with low numbers of Aboriginal people. However people from high Inuit population areas were substantially less likely than people from non-Aboriginal areas to have heart attacks at all.

Cancer strategies implemented for Aboriginal people in Ontario

The Anishinabek Nation has signed a Relationship Protocol with Cancer Care Ontario, setting a new course for a collaborative relationship between CCO and First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities. Over the coming months CCO will be signing a series of these agreements with Aboriginal groups. “Whether it’s advancing political positions or ensuring that the Anishinabek have all the information they need to lead healthy, productive lives, we are committed to working with any partners who share our goals,” said Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee. In Ontario, cancer patterns differ significantly between Aboriginal populations and the general population. Cancer incidence is increasing among First Peoples and their cancer survival rates are worse than for other Ontarians. CCO recognizes the unique needs of Aboriginal peoples, and the protocol provides clarity and certainty about how CCO will work with Aboriginal communities to implement the strategy priorities.

Saskatchewan begins review of mental health, addictions services

The Saskatchewan government has appointed Dr. Fern Stockdale Winder to lead a review of mental health and addictions services. At her appointment, Winder specifically referred to First Nations and Métis, along with children and adolescents, and people in the corrections system. The goal is to develop a plan to strengthen interventions for mental health and addictions problems. “It will be crucial to our work to be able to hear from people with lived experience and from family members about how they’ve actually found the system and what they think could be different,” Winder said. The commissioner is expected to report recommendations to Health Minister Dustin Duncan in the fall of 2014.

BC health official under investigation

A senior British Columbia health official accused of bilking the Tl’azt’en Nation out of possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars is being investigated by the RCMP. The Canadian Press reports that Health Canada called in its special examination unit in March 2010. CP accessed documents under the Access to Information Act and found that Health Canada believes that improper claims over six years could have run as high as $403,647. “In our opinion, the allegation against the third party in billing Tl’azt’en Nation for services not rendered is founded,” the document says. Health Canada and the RCMP have a number of ongoing investigations related to abuse of federal funding in relation to Aboriginal health care, including in New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Manitoba.