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RRFN sets up community isolation units

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It might not be living in the lap of luxury, but for Rainy River First Nations community members who find themselves with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the future, there's now a place they can go to keep themselves and the rest of their community safe.

On Friday the band saw the delivery of two pre-fab units that will serve as isolation suites and a nurses station for any band members who could test positive for COVID-19. The units were purchased from, designed and delivered by Northern Superior Structural Solutions (NSSS), a Thunder Bay business that specializes in pre-fab and modular homes.

The main building features four isolation units, each with a bathroom, closet space, combined kitchen/living/bedroom area and ventilation system that ensures they are completely isolated even from each other, so there is as reduced a risk of cross-contamination between the units as possible. The nurses unit is similar to the isolation units, but larger and features a bedroom as opposed to the combined area from the isolation suites. The increased area of the nurses station also means that supplies and other necessities can be kept there in storage.

The main goal of the units is safety for the greater community, said Rainy River First Nations Councillor Karen Oster-Bombay.

“We thought that when we do get cases, if this individual wants to keep their family safe, this is a place for them to come and be isolated and get well,” she explained.

“The nurses will assist and help take care of the patients that are coming in. The benefit for the people is, we want to make sure they're safe and their families are safe. We want to try to eliminate the spread. That's the main reason we got the isolation units.”

Oster-Bombay said the initial idea for purchasing the units came from a housing conference she attended in February, where she met Rick Boulton, the National Sales Director for NSSS. While the COVID pandemic wouldn't hit until the following month, once Chief and council realized the impact the virus could have in their community, they reached out to Boulton and NSSS.

“I've always been in the housing realm, so that's why I was tasked with bringing the isolation units to Rainy River First Nations,” Oster-Bombay said.

“When COVID did hit big-time, Chief and Council decided we should get ahead of things and start trying to get things ready in case COVID did hit our community.”

Boulton explained that the isolation suites are so far fairly unique, having been created in the aftermath of the pandemic outbreak and not yet widely deployed.

“Since COVID started, that's when we came up with the designs,” he said.

“We came up with a building plan, making some changes as things progressed. We came up with [this unit] and it seems great, we're trying to keep everything easy to clean, easy to ship.”

“This is the first one delivered in Northwestern Ontario,” he continued.

“We're getting lots of calls on them now, a couple of others are interested, including the government, I've had a call from the government in Ottawa for temporary shelters or whatever they might use for rural communities. These are going to go over the winter roads if they have to ship up north.”

The units NSSS has on offer for this purpose range from $100,000 to $170,000 depending on a number of factors including size and shipping, but Boulton said that with the pandemic ongoing and other small communities like Rainy River First Nations also looking at protecting their people, the pre-fab isolation units could become a popular option.

“The more people want to hear about them, and with the way things are going, they're talking about a second wave, I think there will be a lot more of these going out,” Boulton said.

“I'm glad Karen and Rainy River First Nations took the initiative to get ahead of the game and they're all set, they're prepared now.”

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