In this audit, we looked at what Health Canada has done to support First Nations’ access to health services in remote communities. First Nations individuals living in remote communities have significant health needs and face unique obstacles in obtaining health services. We found that Health Canada has not adequately supported access to health services for remote First Nations.
In most cases, initial access to health care in these communities is provided by nurses deployed in nursing stations. We found deficiencies in the way nursing staff and stations are managed. For example, only 1 of 45 nurses included in our sample had completed all of Health Canada’s mandatory training courses. In addition, we found that the number of nurses assigned to nursing stations was based on past practice, and not on each community’s current health needs.
We also found that Health Canada had not addressed 26 of 30 health and safety or building code deficiencies present in the eight nursing stations we examined. Deficiencies ranged from malfunctioning heating and cooling systems to unsafe stairways, ramps and doors. Health specialists cancelled visits to one community because they could not stay in the residence intended for their use due to issues with the septic system dating back more than two years.
Health Canada has an objective of providing First Nations individuals living in remote communities with access to health services that is comparable to that provided to other provincial residents living in similar locations. We found that the Department has not achieved this objective.