A charter plane bearing the colours of the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes flew into Manitoba airspace last week, but the team onboard consisted of nurses rather than athletes.
The Nolinor Aviation plane was bringing 46 nursing professionals to nursing stations in 23 fly-in First Nations communities south of the 60th parallel in northern Ontario and Manitoba, said an Indigenous Services Canada spokesperson. The last stages of the journeys for the health care workers, part of the normal staffing complement for the nursing stations in the Manitoba and Ontario communities, were on charter flights by airlines that already serve those destinations. Once staffing schedules are adjusted, this approach will be used for all First Nations south of the 60th parallel where Indigenous Services Canada employs nursing staff for the duration of the novel coronavirus pandemic to ensure continuity of service while minimizing the risk of transmitting COVID-19, the spokesperson said. This practice enables passengers to board at exclusive terminals where strict health and safety procedures are enforced, which is not easily done at major airport terminals where most commercial flights arrive and depart.
Prior to the deployment to the 23 First Nations, all nurses and other medical professionals had to self-isolate at home for two weeks and self-screen their health status. Indigenous Services Canada is also using longer four-week rotations to minimize staff turnover and protect the health and safety of people living in these communities.
Quebec-based Nolinor Aviation president Marco Prud’homme told the Thompson Citizen that the plane is adorned with the Alouettes logo because the company sometime provides charter services to the CFL team, but it also has contracts to transport federally contracted medical personnel, prison system employees and sometimes Coast Guard staff.