May 9, 2017
First Nations and Inuit Health Branch excluded from Canada Health Act
Globe and Mail – Funded by the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of Health Canada (FNIHB), Canada’s 14th health-care system operates outside of the legislative framework of the 13 provinces and territories. It operates on First Nation reserves across Canada and in the Inuit communities of northern Quebec and Labrador.
Ample evidence shows that Canadians faced with serious health issues experience considerable challenges navigating their provincial health-care system. For First Nations and Inuit patients, this is compounded by having to continuously cross jurisdictional boundaries to access the care they need – They are faced with additional challenges because federal and provincial authorities often disagree on which system should pay for which services.
First Nations children have historically experienced 6-8 times the rates of vaccine preventable disease and significantly more deaths compared to other Canadians. Opportunities to protect First Nations children through immunization may be delayed or missed because of reliance on a patchwork of record transfers completed by phone and fax. Children overdue for routine vaccinations may also go unrecognized. Nurses immunizing children in 4 First Nations in Alberta – Siksika, Stoney, Maskwacis and Bigstone – will now have immediate electronic access to complete immunization records at the point of care, regardless of where in Alberta those immunizations were given. Also for the first time, First Nations immunization records – delivered in these four First Nations communities – will be integrated with the provincial registry. For any child vaccinated in Siksika, Stoney, Maskwacis and Bigstone, complete records will be available to any health service provider who participates in their care, anywhere in the province. This is the first time in Canada that this type of electronic integration has been achieved between a point of care immunization information system and a provincial immunization registry.
Despite Alberta having implemented an electronic immunization registry (ImmARI) in 2002, immunizations delivered in First Nations communities remained excluded for over 15 years. What are the facts for the other provinces and territories?
Josée Lavoie is a professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, and director of the Manitoba First Nations Centre for Aboriginal Health Research, at the University of Manitoba.