Senior representatives from the FNHA and its governance partner, the First Nations Health Council, told a Commons committee Friday that they are experiencing problems accessing enough medical and protective equipment needed to protect their citizens from COVID-19.
Charlene Belleau, Chair of the First Nations Health Council, and Richard Jock, interim Chief Executive Officer of the FNHA, joined Tara Campbell, Executive Director of the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority in Saskatchewan to say they need more personal protective equipment (PPE).
"We recognize the limitations across the country but we are constantly advocating for PPE not only for our health care providers but also for our people that are providing security on the lines or at band offices," Belleau told the committee.
The federal government has said it has been delivering large amounts of protective equipment to Indigenous communities to ensure they are able to protect their citizens and front line workers against the novel coronavirus.
On Friday, Indigenous Services Canada tweeted that as of May 22, it had shipped 845 orders of PPE to First Nations communities and had one order in progress.
But Conservative MP Bob Zimmer, who is the party's Northern affairs critic, says the accounts coming from First Nations chiefs and advocates at committee over the last few weeks indicate more of these critical supplies are needed in many Indigenous communities.
"It's a federal responsibility to provide PPE to the Indigenous communities and it was supposed to be established that way. We're hearing of shortages across the board, across Canada," Zimmer said Friday.
Richard Jock said the FNHA has developed a system to distribute PPE to communities and regions to ensure there is a few weeks' supply to try to prevent critical shortages. But supplies are low.
"I would not want to say that there's a stockpile or an accumulated surplus," he said.
Charlene Belleau also noted a rising dispute in B.C. about what level of government - federal, provincial or Indigenous - should pay the increased costs being incurred by First Nations that have hired security personnel to block or limit access to their communities to prevent outbreaks COVID-19.
"(Indigenous Services Canada) cannot rely on First Nations utilizing our own resource revenue as a means of protecting our communities," she said.