Sick and Tired of Failing Healthcare

Attawapiskat Band Office
Band Office in Attawapiskat.

by Xavier Kataquapit

ATTAWAPISKAT – Today was the first day of spring and up north we are happy that the end of very cold weather has finally arrived. It has been a strange winter with very cold spells and temperatures of minus 30 below Celsius while also have been experiencing periods of warm weather and rain. Our weather up here in northern Ontario has been all over the place.

I have seen a lot of sickness this winter also. I myself had a really bad cold for a couple of weeks and then managed to get a Noravirus. Neither one of these maladies was welcome but the most terrible one was the Noravirus. It really knocked the heck out of me. It comes on like gangbusters as one minute I was feeling good then suddenly I got a pain in my stomach which rapidly grew to extreme vomiting and diarrhea. It lasted for a few days and I had to really pay attention to make sure to replenish the water and electrolytes I had lost with this sickness.

Dehydration is very serious when you have a sickness like this and can become very dangerous. So if you do get this type of stomach virus make sure to buy some electrolyte powder at the drug store and mix it with water so you do not get dangerously dehydrated.

Many members of my family and friends have been sick this winter and I have always noticed that people in isolated First Nations like Attawapiskat tend to pick up contagious sickness very quickly as remote communities are social and disease travels quickly. I seem to notice also that with the changing weather patterns with such up and down temperatures people may be getting sick more often up north. Most people I know up north do not have access to a regular family doctor so they end up in emergency rooms and see a temporary doctor. The emergency rooms are often very busy and full of people with all kinds of sickness and injury. The truth is that if you were not very sick before you got to the emergency room you just might end up with some malady contracted while you visited the hospital.

Although our Canadian health system is still in place and for the most part servicing most of us well it has a lot to be desired. Governments have been starving the system for many years and private health care is threatening the pubic system more and more every year. I don’t understand why we can’t take our health care system more seriously and dedicate as much money as we need to and make sure the system is working supremely. As a social democracy I would like to see Canada devote more money to health care, public education including college and university and senior citizens.

We have spent billions fighting wars in far away counties for more than a decade and causing a lot of death and destruction. Most of this was because of big business interest in oil and other natural resources in these countries and nothing really positive came out of any of these conflicts. As a matter of fact our actions have galvanized people to become terrorists and the world has become a less safe place in general. The money we have spent on needless wars would have been much better served with expenditures on health, education and our senior citizens.

We should all take stock of our local hospitals and medical facilities and services and work to lobby the government to increase funding to return the system to something closer to perfect. We need some way to train more doctors and nurses and to make their environments at work more easy to deal with. We need to take the strain off the system and expand it where need be.

Medical care in many remote First Nations is not great and in some almost non existent as there are no doctors in place on a full time basis. I know that under the current Liberal government things are getting much better but they could improve a lot more. Too many people are being left aside when it comes to health care resulting in death and poor quality of life simply because our health care system is not working as well as it should be. Money is not the only answer but it is the most obvious at this point. We need less lobbying and services from the private sector and more reliable and enhanced coverage from our once well respected public system. Canadians are getting sick of waiting for real action in this area as we continue to slip into a private system like the one active in the United States. None of us really wants to end up with a mess like that.


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Under The Northern Sky is the title of a popular Aboriginal news column written by First Nation writer, Xavier Kataquapit, who is originally from Attawapiskat Ontario on the James Bay coast. He has been writing the column since 1997 and it is is published regularly in newspapers across Canada. In addition to working as a First Nation columnist, his writing has been featured on various Canadian radio broadcast programs. Xavier writes about his experiences as a First Nation Cree person. He has provided much insight into the James Bay Cree in regards to his people’s culture and traditions. As a Cree writer, his stories tell of the people on the land in the area of Attawapiskat First Nation were he was born and raised.