Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut August 08, 2014 - 4:10 pm

A red tape nightmare: Nunavut mum, newborn baby, toddler stranded in Quebec

“It feels like other (Nunavut) patients are given more importance than a premature baby"

Annie Kilabuk and her newborn daughter Jade Kilabuk-Robertson. (PHOTO COURTESY OF ANNIE KILABUK)
Annie Kilabuk and her newborn daughter Jade Kilabuk-Robertson. (PHOTO COURTESY OF ANNIE KILABUK)

A Nunavut mother is still waiting to hear if the Government of Nunavut can help her and her two young children get back home to Iqaluit.

The young mother says she’s been stranded in southern Quebec with her toddler and newborn baby since the end of June.

Annie Kilabuk, 26, was almost seven months pregnant with her second child when she decided to fly south to with her 17-month-old toddler to buy supplies for the new baby.

Kilabuk flew to Montreal June 27, where her partner and the father of her children is based.

Kilabuk said her doctors okayed her to fly any time before the eighth month of pregnancy — a pregnancy she said that had so far been without complications.

But two days into her trip to Montreal, Kilabuk went into labour. She delivered a baby girl at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital on June 29.

Because the premature infant’s lungs were not fully developed, she required some help with breathing after her birth. Kilabuk said her daughter also had issues with her eyesight.

So doctors at the Montreal hospital arranged for a medevac to take Kilabuk, the newborn and her toddler directly to Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit, where she was meant to deliver.

But Kilabuk said the GN’s health department refused to pay for the medevac.

“They didn’t think they needed to help us, they’ve never handled this before,” Kilabuk said in a phone interview from Hemmingford, Quebec where she’s been staying with her children’s grandparents ever since.

Kilabuk said she’s been essentially stranded in Quebec.

Her partner, a Montreal-based wood-worker, has since lost his job.

Kilabuk’s own mother passed away five years ago and she said her father lives in Ottawa, with no income. Kilabuk, who graduated from Nunavut Arctic College last spring, worked on contract for the federal government in Iqaluit for a period last spring, but not long enough to earn her maternity benefits.

“Trying to rely on help from my family is difficult – I don’t have anyone to help me,” she said. “It feels like other (Nunavut) patients are given more importance than a premature baby. It’s disappointing.”

To complicate matters, Kilabuk’s newborn daughter was recently found to have a heart murmur, which requires more intensive care.

Once Kilabuk told her story to CBC Radio earlier this week, she received a call from the GN’s medical travel department.

The department offered to fly Kilabuk and her daughters home on a commercial flight from Ottawa to Iqaluit, but Kilabuk said it doesn’t solve much for the family.

Kilabuk still has to get from Quebec to Ottawa, and she’s worried about taking a newborn on a three-hour flight with no medical supervision.

On top of that, Kilabuk would require an escort for her toddler, since Canadian aviation rules say adults can travel with only one child under the age of two.

“I’ve been waiting and waiting to get that assistance, and it seems like the only option I have,” she said. “But I don’t want to take a risk with a premature baby.”

Nunavut’s department of health said it could not speak to Kilabuk’s case due to “client confidentiality.”

In an emailed statement, the department said that “the medical travel policy does not apply to travel originating outside of Nunavut; however there may be occasion when the deputy minister will consider specific requests for assistance.”

At this point, Kilabuk said she’s now considering permanently relocating to Quebec, to avoid the complications of travel, and so her newborn can continue to receive care in Montreal.

“The only thing that’s keeping me above water right now is my kids,” she said.

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