Aboriginal communities in northern Manitoba, hard hit by swine flu, are receiving adequate supplies and the situation is under control, the province's health minister said on Friday following a visit.
Health Minister Theresa Oswald, along with Dr. Joel Kettner, the chief medical officer, visited St. Theresa Point, an isolated community about 600 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. Many in the community are sick with flu-like symptoms.
"The medical personnel there are second to none. They're working very hard and they're keeping people calm," Oswald told reporters. "It is not a situation of chaos. It's a situation of control, of calm and of care, and this was very encouraging to me."
As of Friday, there were 31 Manitobans in hospital on ventilators due to the H1N1 virus. Two-thirds are aboriginal, health officials said.
Oswald said additional medical personnel, two doctors and two nurses, have volunteered to head to the northern area in the coming days. She said more health-care workers are needed and was optimistic that more would soon come forward.
Oswald said that in terms of supplies, "they're OK right now" and that she has seen them "on the ground with my own eyes-masks, protective materials."
But there are requests for things like hand sanitizer, particularly in homes without running water, Oswald said. She said she saw a lot of people using hand sanitizer, even though people are seeking more.
On Friday, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba says it would fast-track the licensing and registration of doctors coming from elsewhere to help.
Oswald cautioned that they must continue to be vigilant, but that, "I do have a sense that people are being cared for very well there and that our partnership with the federal government is working and is going to continue to work."
Yet Chief David Harper of the nearby Garden Hill First Nation said his community is short of everything.
He said he just ordered $12,000 worth of equipment-mostly face masks, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer.
The shipments will arrive in Winnipeg this weekend and will be flown to his community on Monday.
"If we were gonna stop the spread of the disease, we should've acted right away, not two weeks later, three weeks later," Harper said. "The fact that there's no supplies here yet, it puts us in a place where we have no artillery to combat this disease."