For immediate release
February 13, 2020
Treaty One Territory, Winnipeg, MB – Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) is issuing a statement to update to MKO citizens on the advocacy work being done in relation to Medical Services for First Nations in Northern Manitoba.
Throughout 2019, MKO’s Client Navigator received complaints from 1261 citizens from Northern First Nations. The majority of concerns expressed are related to escorts for travellers; long wait times when calling Referral Services; in-city Medical Transportation rides; the troublesome attitude of staff answering phones at call centres; inadequate rates for ground travel and meals; and other issues, such as the long bus rides from Thompson to Winnipeg with no meals or fluids for patients, confusion around billing clients for ambulance rides, and the requirement of Elders to pay extra funds to travel to Winnipeg to access medical appointments under the Northern Patient Transportation Program – Thompson.
“MKO staff investigated the many complaints we have received from clients about the wait times to reach Medical Services,” stated MKO’s Client Navigator Bernice Thorassie. “We called a few times and were on hold for one and a half hours. When we thought someone answered the phone, the line went dead. We called back and were on hold for another two hours. The long wait to reach someone to discuss medical issues is causing undue stress to Northern citizens. They are waiting endless hours at airports, bus depots, hospital, and clinics from anywhere from one to six hours. The wait time causes exhaustion and hunger. The clients have nowhere to rest while waiting.”
In January 2020, Grand Chief Garrison Settee and the MKO Client Navigator had the opportunity to meet with the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services Canada. A wide variety of topics were discussed during this meeting, including the need to make improvements to Medical Services for First Nations in the North.
“MKO has received many complaints that highlight the serious issues that need to be improved upon in relation to Medical Services. First Nations leaders are rightfully concerned about the ability of their citizens to access quality health care in Manitoba,” said Grand Chief Settee. “Although the complaints are concerning, I am pleased to have recently met with representatives of the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch at Indigenous Services Canada who have expressed their commitment to working with MKO to ensure we are moving ahead and making improvements in the area of Medical Services. I am encouraged by the journey we will be undergoing to ensure these essential services are accessible to First Nations citizens in Northern Manitoba.”
Grand Chief Settee and MKO will continue to carry out advocacy work in relation to Medical Services and will provide further updates throughout the year. MKO’s Client Navigator continues to be a resource for First Nations citizens as well as Inuit living in Manitoba who are experiencing difficulties with Non-Insured Health Benefits and other related programs and services. The Client Navigator can be reached by phone at 204-677-1618, toll free at 1-800-442-0488, or by email at [email protected].
For more information:
Melanie Ferris, Communications Officer
Email: [email protected]
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) is a non-profit, political advocacy organization that has represented 26 First Nation communities in Manitoba’s North since 1981. The MKO represents more than 72,000 First Nations people.