When COVID-19 seized the attention of the province of Quebec, the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services (NRBHSS) swiftly activated its emergency cell composed of key players required to address the crisis. This group included members of staff that can take on aspects related to psychosocial needs, emergency measures, physical health, communication, etc. The mandate of the cell is to ensure all services are in place to react to any type of crisis linked to the health sector by applying measures and when required, coordinate with other regional organizations.
To respond to the pandemic accordingly, the NRBHSS exacted a preparedness phase on all fronts to rearrange services. There was a set-up of temporary spaces dedicated to COVID-19 in all 14 communities. Acquiring necessary material, securing human resources, and appropriating sections in each Health Centre for COVID-19 – specific function were some of the many things taken in consideration. A strict medevac protocol is in place for healthcare professionals and pilots, along with securing an aircraft dedicated to COVID-19 patients only. Communication with the population is maintained through social media, the NRBHSS website and local and regional FM Radio updates through leaders from all over the region that are updated with accurate and current information. The NRBHSS also set up two phone lines to serve the population, one for general information and psychosocial support and another for assessment of symptoms for people concerned that they may be infected.
Based on Public Health guidelines, multiple actions were undertaken simultaneously for people showing symptoms. Isolation measures were put in place with assessment of the need for testing. Individuals awaiting results get monitored by health professionals. When a positive case is confirmed, a thorough investigation takes place, led by a Public Health team. Patients are required to answer a lengthy and detailed questionnaire to establish a close-contact list and identify people at risk of community transmitted contamination.
Protection of the population is at the core of all decisions made throughout this crisis. Implementing flight restrictions significantly reduced flight traffic to the bare minimum, only allowing cargo, medically related travel and the movement of critically essential workers. Being an isolated region with no road-link, it was a difficult decision to make, however, it was necessary to curb the otherwise high-risk scenario of community transmitted contamination across Nunavik.
Through all this, there is a strong belief that the population must comply with the recommendations and measures in place to ensure an effort of maximum safety for all. An effort on everyone’s part can get Nunavik through trying times.