December 11, 2023

‘People need to have confidence’ their emergencies will be responded to quickly, one MLA says

More MLAs have come forward with concerns over health centres in their communities.

Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk, whose riding includes Sanirajak, and Kugluktuk MLA Bobby Anavilok, made statements and raised questions about the state of the health centres in their communities at the legislative assembly Monday.

This follows concerns raised by Qikiqtarjuaq MLA Mary Killiktee, who questioned Health Minister John Main on Feb. 23 about the replacement of the health centre in her community.

Kaernerk said Sanirajak is struggling with the state of its health centre, which he said has been offering only emergency services since last summer.

He said this is because the health centre is short-staffed, with residents being “told to be patient if they need to go to the health centre after hours.”

Kaernerk asked Main how many other communities in Nunavut are also currently operating on an emergency basis only.

Main said there are currently no community health centres facing closure. He said he did not know the precise number of centres currently offering only reduced services or emergency services.

Main said the root cause of community health centre operational issues has to do with staffing.

“We need the staff to have our health centres at full service so that we can provide the full suite of programs that communities need, and that is something that my department understands,” Main said in his response.

“We’ve brought in one package to improve our staffing at the community level, which includes a number of measures including looking at changing the hours of operation for health centres.”

Main said his department is working with the Department of Human Resources and Nunavut Employees Union to strengthen staffing and help with retention.

Kaernerk said his community of Sanirajak “is trying very hard to respect” the current operating limitations at the health centre.

At the same time, he added, “people need to have confidence that their emergency is going to be addressed in a timely manner.”

Anavilok also raised concerns about the health centre in his community, calling for a new, larger and better-equipped health centre to be opened in Kugluktuk.

He said the current building serves a population of more 1,600 but has only four clinic rooms. He said the lack of space is especially felt when there are specialist clinics and extra doctors, nurses and staff in the community.

A new health centre would help “deliver the quality of health care that Kugluktuk residents deserve,” Anavilok said in his statement.

He questioned Main about budgeting for a new community health centre in Kugluktuk as part of the government’s capital budget plan.

Main said he hopes to visit Kugluktuk and meet with hamlet residents to understand the needs of the community.

He did not confirm a date for when a community health centre for Kugluktuk would be introduced in the Government of Nunavut’s capital budget plan, but said he hopes his department can work with its “federal partners” to address the infrastructure gap for health services.

“[It’s] not just health centres, but also long-term care and other types of infrastructure, mental health-related infrastructure, and I really look forward to further collaboration with our federal partners,” Main said.

Last month in the legislative assembly, Killiktee also called for a new health centre to be built in her community of Qikiqtarjuaq. She noted it is the oldest health centre in Nunavut, and was built in 1972.

Main answered that the Health Department has a plan to replace that health centre, but has struggled to secure funding for the project.


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