A 14-year-old boy from Nain died late Sunday night after being treated for tuberculosis (TB).
Richard Pamak, ordinary member for Nain in the Nunatsiavut assembly, said an autopsy will be performed to confirm if the child’s death was TB-related, but was being treated for TB symptoms at the time of his death.
Pamak said it will likely be a few days before autopsy results are known.
According to Pamak, the boy had TB symptoms since November, and went to the clinic in Nain on Friday and was immediately sent to Goose Bay, from where he was flown to St. John’s. He died at the Janeway Hospital Sunday night.
“It was a big shock to the community, knowing that a child has passed away from possible complications with TB,” said Pamak. “The community is very concerned if the ongoing treatment programs, are they working? It opens a lot of questions and concerns from the community.”
Pamak said it is “totally unacceptable” that TB is still an ongoing issue for the community. If the autopsy confirms the boy died from tuberculosis, Pamak said he will call for an independent review to determine why another person has died from TB. He also wants to immediately implement a TB strategy for the community.
Since a tuberculosis outbreak in Nain in 2009, and again in 2015, a treatment program was set up to try to combat TB in the community. Pamak said a lot of work has been done in recent years, but “this really opens your eyes to see if it’s really helping or not.”
“It opens up questions and concerns, for sure. Over the next few days, we’ll be getting more details on why this happened, but it’s going to be a tough sell by anyone to convince the community that TB is not rampant in the community. Three years ago, we lost a gentleman to TB, and from there, there was an outbreak, and the community called out for more to be done on TB. And now, three years later, we lose another. The community is having concerns and questions, for sure.
“If the autopsy shows it’s TB-related, and there was a lack of services provided, then the community will be very concerned, and will be looking to all levels of government and asking why did this happen, even with all the work that has been done over the past two years.”
Pamak said Nain has nurses in the community, and a doctor who travels there every couple of weeks, but there is a call for more permanent doctors in isolated communities.
In 2015, the reported rate of active tuberculosis in Inuit Nunangat was more than 270 times higher than the rate among the Canadian-born, non-Indigenous population.
The federal budget tabled at the end of February committed $27.5 million over five years to eliminate tuberculosis in Inuit Nunangat. The budget states the federal government will support community-wide prevention, detection, screening, treatment, communications and awareness, and address social determinants of health.
This Saturday marks World Tuberculosis Day and the minister of Indigenous services, Jane Philpott, is slated to make a related announcement on Friday.