First Autumn H1N1 Outbreak Hits – And Harper Government Is Not Prepared
September 17, 2009
OTTAWA – The first pandemic outbreak in Canada’s H1N1 fall flu season has struck Vancouver Island – and the Harper government is still not ready to confront it, Liberal Health Critic Dr. Carolyn Bennett and Vancouver South MP Ujjal Dosanjh said today.“We are very concerned for those who are affected,” said Dr. Bennett. “Stephen Harper and his health minister, Leona Aglukkaq, have been told for months that they need to prepare for this.
“The Harper government should have ordered the vaccine earlier so that Canadians would have the vaccine now – not a month or two from now. Communities need federal leadership and resources. They need the proper information and public health campaigns to help contain the spread of H1N1.
“If the outbreak has in fact begun, we are worried that there is nothing concrete in place to prevent further spread. Aboriginal peoples are not even on the government’s priority list for vaccines. This is nothing short of gross negligence, and we hope the people of the Island don’t have to pay the price.”
News reports indicate that 100 people in Ahousaht, a community of 800-1000 people, have H1N1, and that one person has died from the illness, according to the Medical Officer of Health for that region and the Officer of Health for Aboriginal Affairs.
The Canadian Medical Association Journal today reported the outbreak in Aboriginal communities near Tofino on the west coast of the Island. According to a story on the journal’s website, Dr. John Armstong says he has treated dozens of people infected with the virus, and the province’s public health lab in Vancouver recently instructed him to stop sending swabs because all of the samples he had already sent for testing were positive for the H1N1 virus. (CBC News, Sept. 17, 2009)
Vancouver South MP Ujjal Dosanjh, who is also a former federal health minister, said it is an outrage that Canadians had to learn of the outbreak from the CMAJ, rather than from their government.
“Would Canadians even know about this if not for the CMAJ? This very critical information did not come from the Minister or her government, even though they had an H1N1 briefing just yesterday. And that is simply unacceptable,” he said. “It is clear this government is failing to implement the lessons learned from the tragic impact of the SARS pandemic here in Canada.
“From the listeriosis outbreak that killed 22 people, to the isotope shortage that has endangered cancer and cardiac patients, to their callous H1N1 response of sending body bags to First Nations communities, it is clear the Harper government has no idea how to protect the health and safety of Canadians.
“Canadians deserve better,” he said.