In addition to providing COVID-19 testing for Matawa citizens and staff, the Matawa Health Cooperative is also partnering with the Thunder Bay International Airport and Nishnawbe Aski Police Service to do COVID-19 testing.
“We’re partnering with the airport to do COVID-19 testing — we’re just finalizing the partnership agreement,” says Frances Wesley, executive director at Matawa Health Cooperative, during a phone interview. “And we’re also partnering with Nishnawbe Aski Police Service to provide COVID-19 testing for the officers that travel to the northern communities. People are hearing more about the work of the Matawa Health Cooperative and want to be a part of our team and do some partnership work with us.”
Wesley says the Matawa Health Cooperative received a new COVID-19 rapid test machine for the nurses to use for testing people. The rapid test provides people with test results in about 10 minutes.
“We are going to train our nursing staff first before we launch that project,” Wesley says. “The training is very important. All our nursing staff will be participating in virtual training on how to utilize that machine. I don’t think we will be providing that service until after Christmas because we are going to be moving to the old site of Anishnawbe Mushkiki at the Chapples Building. We’ve taken over one of the floors there so we could be set up as a clinical service.”
Wesley says the nursing staff currently provide COVID-19 swab testing Monday to Friday at the Matawa First Nations Management building on Court St.
“We take up to 30 every morning — all the tests we’ve done were negative,” Wesley says. “We work with the communities to provide the COVID-19 testing for the contractors that have to travel. And for some of the First Nation (citizens) who go live in the community or who have to come here for whatever reason, we will give them a test before they go back home.”
Wesley says the Matawa Health Cooperative has been funded to purchase a trailer to do COVID-19 testing at the Matawa First Nations Management building.
“You can’t come into the (building for testing),” Wesley says. “Half of our staff will be moving (to the Chapples Building). Some will still continue to do COVID-19 testing on Court St. once we get our trailer set up.”
Wesley says the Matawa Health Cooperative has also been providing Elders with personal protective equipment (PPE) and traditional foods.
“Over the summer months we gave out fish and wild traditional foods,” Wesley says. “Our First Nation communities will go fishing and then they will bring down the fish and just give it out to the people.”
The Matawa Health Cooperative also set up a toll-free line for clients to call for clinical and/or mental health services.
“Our staff has been really busy since COVID-19 struck us eight months ago,” Wesley says. “In fact, I think we’re busier than ever. Over the summer months they’ve travelled extensively to the First Nation communities, all except for Webequie and Neskantaga.”
Wesley says the Matawa Health Cooperative also set up a brown bag program to deliver about 50 bags of food to homeless people every second week in Thunder Bay.
“Every other week we will prepare brown bags and sandwiches and we will take them to the homeless people,” Wesley says.
The Matawa Health Cooperative has also provided PPE supplies to the Matawa communities and support for Matawa citizens in Thunder Bay with food security and PPE supplies.