Fort Resolution pre-med student calls N.W.T.'s no house call policy 'blatantly' racist, dangerous

·4 min read
Laney Beaulieu, who studies medical sciences at Western University in London, Ont., says nurses should be allowed to make house calls or provide emergency services outside the health centre in the N.W.T. (Submitted by Laney Beaulier - image credit)
Laney Beaulieu, who studies medical sciences at Western University in London, Ont., says nurses should be allowed to make house calls or provide emergency services outside the health centre in the N.W.T. (Submitted by Laney Beaulier - image credit)

A Fort Resolution, N.W.T. pre-med student is calling out what she says is a racist and dangerous policy by the territory.

Laney Beaulieu, who studies medical sciences at Western University in London, Ont., took to social media to voice her concerns over a territory-wide policy that prohibits community nurses from making house calls or providing any emergency services outside the health centre.

"I'm tired of my community being treated like our lives don't matter or like we are too dangerous to care for," her post on Facebook read, in part. "Emergency medical care is not a luxury, it is an essential service that is provided to the rest of Canada without them even having to ask for it."

Her post also acknowledges Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn who raised the alarm over the issue at the legislative assembly on Friday.

While addressing the legislature, he brought up the death of an elder who was in medical distress in June. The elder was only a few hundred metres from the health centre, Norn had said.

This week, Beaulieu told CBC's Lawrence Nayally, host of Trail's End, that in many of N.W.T.'s small Indigenous communities, including Fort Resolution, the nurses are the only health care professionals in a community.

"We don't have doctors that span the community, we don't have paramedics. So the nurses really are our only source of health care, and to learn that they can't do emergency response, or they can't leave the nursing station to go on emergency calls was really shocking because that's a very vital part of medical wellness," Beaulieu said.

"It is, in my opinion, blatantly racist and dangerous."

MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh Steve Norn says a policy prohibiting community nurses from making house calls prevented two sick residents from getting life-saving care.
MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh Steve Norn says a policy prohibiting community nurses from making house calls prevented two sick residents from getting life-saving care.(Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

Negatively affects Indigenous people

She said that's because it discriminates against Indigenous people in N.W.T.

"This policy doesn't affect people in Yellowknife or Hay River where there is a very large population of non-Indigenous people. It … negatively affects Indigenous people in small, isolated communities, where nurses are the only form of emergency response that's available," she said.

Health Minister Julie Green had said that nurses are not first responders and that first responders have a different skill set.

Beaulieu agrees that may be the case in larger centres. But in small, isolated municipalities, she said nurses take on a larger scope of care and practice than they normally would.

"They already take on jobs that normal nurses don't have to do," she said, adding that could include performing sutures, prenatal and pediatric checkups and X-rays.

"Those are things that North nurses don't normally do in larger centres, but they are expected to do them in these smaller communities. And with that, I think the duty to be ... an emergency responder, because that's our only option."

She added when the responsibility is left on friends and family members to transport a patient to an emergency centre, it could cause more harm than good and it could waste time that could have been spent providing care.

"In some communities, especially very isolated ones … not everyone has a car. So there's the additional problem of having to transport someone by a four wheeler or Ski-doo," she said.

Advocacy for patients

Beaulieu says she'd like to see a repeal of the policy.

"But if that can't be done if … it's decided that nurses really can't leave the nursing station, then I think immediately, there needs to be paramedics or first responders installed in these communities," she said.

The student plans to become a doctor, a role she said involves more than just administering medical care.

"In the North … there are so many systemic problems inside of Indigenous communities," she said.

"I think that in order to really support the wellness and the health and well being of our Indigenous population, you can't just treat them on a physical level, you also have to try to be an advocate from your position of power to, you know, remedy these other problems."