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'It's a tough time, but we're managing': Stoney Health Services director

A jump in active COVID-19 cases reported in Morley Jan. 24 is keeping Stoney Health Services on their toes, but no more than usual.

A jump in active COVID-19 cases reported in Morley Jan. 24 is keeping Stoney Health Services (SHS) on their toes, but no more than usual.

As of Monday, there were nine new active cases of COVID-19 in the community of Morley, which is also the current total being managed by the health organization. There are no hospitalizations.

"Unfortunately, many of our Indigenous communities have been hit hard by COVID," said SHS executive director Aaron Khan. "But I can say that our First Nation — our Morley community — is resilient."

Khan added that housing issues have been a key factor to blame in the spread of COVID-19 in Morley, and among other First Nation communities.

"When you have multiple families living in one home, that overcrowding has been shown to be one of the risks for spreading COVID," he said.

Despite some of the systemic issues the community faces, Khan feels they have fought hard and stood tall in the face of COVID-19.

"From the very beginning, the community has done all that they can do to protect themselves and their neighbours and their loved ones by following public health guidelines," he said.

Khan added that he is proud of the way Stoney Health staff have handled the pandemic, from their front-line physicians and nurses, to the psychologists, social workers, medical transport teams and janitors.

"Everybody's stepped up and everyone has done an amazing job in the last two years," said Khan. "Being a health-care worker is not easy — you're looking after the needs of the community and also looking after the needs of your own family as well.

"It's a tough time, but we're managing."

Stoney Health continues to offer walk-in PCR testing and recently moved its test centre into the SHS trailer in an effort to enhance their reach.

"The reason is that we want to be optimizing the services to make it easily accessible and also preserve some of the energy of our staff," said Khan.

"We have rotated the sites many times based on the needs and we will continue to rotate if the need calls for a different location."

The health organization is also providing rapid antigen test kits for at-home use and continues to put in more requests for shipments whenever necessary, with the last shipment arriving a couple weeks ago.

They have since put in another request and Khan is hopeful that supply chain issues will not interfere so that more will arrive soon.

"Whatever we do receive from the province, we are trying to give out to the community," Khan said.

They have previously dropped off tests for parents at daycares, at preschools and band offices for better distribution. 

Khan said Nakoda Elementary and Morley Community schools have also received rapid tests in accordance with the province's plan to roll out distribution in schools.

As for keeping up with the demands of regular health programming, the SHS executive director said that while things aren't 100 per cent, they are managing well.

"All our programs are running as usual," he said. "We've had to shift some resources from other programs to deal with COVID but our staff have done an amazing job, I'm very thankful to them."