Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut March 09, 2018 - 11:30 am

MLAs fire barrage of complaints at Nunavut’s health minister

After-hours emergency calls go unanswered

Health Minister Pat Angnakak withstood a barrage of complaints about her department's shortcomings yesterday. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)
Health Minister Pat Angnakak withstood a barrage of complaints about her department's shortcomings yesterday. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)

Nunavut Health Minister Pat Angnakak faced a heap of criticism in the legislature on Thursday over her department’s shortcomings, including reports of after-hours emergency calls to community health centres that go unanswered.

Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main said during question period on March 8 that he received a letter from a constituent saying phone calls to their community’s after-hours nurse line were never responded to.

“Sometimes it might be an emergency situation, but the phone at the health centre is not being answered,” Main said.

“Its not a hypothetical question, it is a situation that has arisen multiple times.”

Angnakak replied, “that’s a situation that sometimes arises when somebody is not answering a phone that should be [answering].”

The minister suggested to Main that any incidents should be reported to the Health Department’s Office of Patient Relations, which is supposed to investigate those matters.

Earlier questions by Main on standards and protocol for after-hours medical workers in small communities also went unanswered by Angnakak, who added she was not personally aware of any complaints about after-hours medical service.

“Forgive me, I’m a new minister so I’m trying to learn the ropes as well,” Angnakak said on her third day of the current sitting of the legislature.

Angnakak was sworn in as health minister last November.

The tough questions over the health minister’s portfolio continued, when Pangnirtung MLA Margaret Nakasuk relayed security and cleanliness complaints from people who have stayed at Iqaluit’s Tammattaavik medical boarding home.

Nakasuk said elders visiting the boarding home have been harassed by intoxicated people, and she asked how many security staff are employed at the facility.

Angnakak replied that her department raised both security and cleanliness issues during a recent meeting with Tammattaavik’s staff, and are working with the facility on solutions.

One additional security guard will be hired to complement the single guard who is currently working at the boarding home, Angnakak said, and is expected to start next month.

“To be blunt, the conditions at the boarding home are not ideal and medical clients have noted that the rooms are not clean and there is dirt around,” Nakasuk said.

“I know this is an operations matter, but we have to be aware of the health of the people staying there.”

In a member’s statement, Gjoa Haven MLA Tony Akoak repeated calls for a mental health facility in his community, following over a year of violent incidents.

Akoak pressed Angnakak to commit to considering the establishment of a dedicated mental health facility in Nunavut.

“I guess I can’t commit to something as big as that, but I can commit to working with yourself and your community to find more ways that we can address some of the trauma that your community has experienced,” Angnakak said.

“It might not be in the form of an actual facility, that you are requesting,” Angnakak said.

She said psychiatric nurses are available in each Nunavut community, along with mental health facilities in Cambridge Bay and Iqaluit, and a mobile trauma unit that can be deployed throughout the territory.

“We’re always looking for ways we can provide more support for people,” she said, mentioning programs, grants and services available to communities through Nunavut’s Quality of Life Secretariat.

A 2017 audit of Nunavut’s Department of Health by the Auditor General of Canada reported that more than 500 positions, or 46.6 per cent of the department’s permanent workforce, were vacant as of Dec. 31, 2016.

Because of that, the Department of Health spent about $16.3 million on agency nurses—or nurses hired through a contractor—along with $15 million on casual employees, during the 2015-16 fiscal year, the auditor general reported.

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(13) Comments:

#1. Posted by hire us on March 09, 2018

46 % of the department of health vacancies is because they don’t hire inuit to work at health call office of patient relations and talk to who? not even inuit working there and they are not professionals. like common istn’t that what we are supposed to do? i could not even have a clen room at the boarding home because of dirty bed and rugs!

#2. Posted by Jean on March 09, 2018

Typical situation that happens in all community’s a person calls in doesn’t get hold of the person and writes or phones their MLA to complain, yes 24 hour call lines may not get answered sometimes immediately as those answering the calls have to be woken up or in the washroom or on another call, yes shit happens and we live in the north its bound to happen we are not like down south and have a dispatch number to contact.  But everyone in the North goes to their MLA because they are pissed off and the MLA jumps when they receive these complaints and empowers the complainer.  Instead of talking to the group or the agency directly first the people of the North runs to anyone that will listen.  Stop empowering the complainers and find ways to run the agencies more efficiently.

#3. Posted by holyhealth on March 09, 2018

$15 million on “casual” employees???!!!  Where is the union?  500 positions vacant?

#4. Posted by Jan on March 09, 2018

#1 poster it would be good to hire local Inuit, as long as they aren’t late or at least show up for work.  Unfortunately a lot don’t including myself he he

#5. Posted by Jobi on March 09, 2018

DH should hire contractors from the south. They will answer phones no problem because make so much money they don’t mind. They not from Nunavut but GN doesn’t mind because don’t have to give housing to them like if they were from NU.

#6. Posted by Happy Ending on March 09, 2018

#1 & #3

Staffing the Department of Health is a little more challenging that staffing the local Co-op or Northern Store.

#4 Thanks for being so candid and saying many of us suspect.

#7. Posted by What the F #2 on March 09, 2018

If a person needs a medical attention where are they suppose to go?  If they can’t even get a call answered.  This is Canada and we are allowed to demand basic health services.  The current minister would be jumping up and down demanding such things so the MLAs are doing a great job.

#8. Posted by LoL on March 09, 2018

You know your a NU mla when, one day your drilling questions Ministers seeking dificiancies answers to important issues from one side of the hse.  Wake up the next day, you’re being drilled those same questions and you struggle to answer them.

#9. Posted by Shamus on March 09, 2018

Is anyone going to ask Minister Angnakak or Joanasie about baby Makibi and the family possibly having to pay the GN’s legal bills, etc?

#10. Posted by MLA's should try and solve problems on March 09, 2018

John Main, Shame on you for just complaining. That may make a very small portion of your district’s voters happy but you have done very little to serve them.

Did you do any DD yourself? did you talk to the staff at the HC to see what issues may have caused this to happen? Like for example is the local HC under staffed, over worked and stressed out to the breaking point? Instead of complaining to the Minister about an issue that may or may not of actually happened you could have used the valuable time while the house is sitting to ask the Minister what her plans are on filling the vacant Doctor and nurses positions in Arviat? This would not have made the current staff feel like crap, like your actual comments did and may have actually done something the address the real issues.

too many politicians in Nunavut listen to a complainer and gives them a voice when they don’t take any time to see if it is real or not. a simple pass the buck situation. We should expect better.

#11. Posted by good work MLA's on March 09, 2018

Who on this comment page has been elected as MLA, carrying paperwork full of information, and knowing all there is to know about Nunavut in less than one year?  NO one. Right.

#12. Posted by Consider this on March 09, 2018

Perhaps the phone calls didn’t get answered because the on-all nurse was dealing with a patient?
Perhaps # 12 is absolutely right!
# 8 is correct as well
# 11 - go back to sleep

#13. Posted by Richard on March 11, 2018

Toot…Toot….trainwreck. Whats new?

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