Calling a swine-flu outbreak in their communities a "pending atrocity," three chiefs from northern Manitoba travelled to Ottawa Tuesday demanding a meeting with the federal health and Indian affairs ministers.
The chiefs, whose communities are situated in the Island Lake region about 600 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, again asked the federal government to set up an emergency field hospital to deal with the evolving H1N1 "crisis."
They said the situation has been aggravated by the widespread poverty in their fly-in communities where many houses don't even have access to running water.
With at least 100 people diagnosed with flu across seven northern communities, the chiefs said they are also facing a shortage of medical personnel and supplies, including bottles of hand sanitizers.
Manitoba has about 226 reported cases of swine flu including two deaths associated with the virus. Canada has reported more than 4,000 confirmed swine-flu cases and 11 of those have been connected to deaths.
"We told the government not to turn a blind eye to this pending atrocity," said Garden Hill First Nations Chief David Harper. He said his community has recorded at least five confirmed cases of H1N1 flu, including an 18-month old.
The chiefs failed to get a meeting Tuesday with the ministers, but they did meet informally with a senior official in Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq's office in the morning.
Ms. Aglukkaq brushed off question period demands for a face-to-face meeting with the chiefs saying the situation in northern Manitoba is under control.
"I have been meeting with the NDP[New Democratic Party] government of Manitoba and they agree that we have adequate supplies for the communities should they require for the pandemic," said Ms. Aglukkaq.
Churchill NDP MP Niki Ashton said she had visited two of the communities and found "people who are afraid, anxious and tired."
She said the pandemic plan for the region was "full of paper" but thin on resources.
"They need doctors, they need supplies and they need it now," said Ms. Ashton.
Manitoba's health department said they did not have community by community numbers on confirmed cases, but the health region that includes the Island Lake communities has reported 78 cases of swine flu.