Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavik April 03, 2014 - 4:50 pm

Nunavik health officials take new approach to building Montreal boarding home

Officials eye neighbourhoods away from downtown core

Nunavik patients travelling south for care currently stay at this boarding home in downtown Montreal, a facility they'll continue to use until the MNQ opens a new one in 2016. (FILE PHOTO)
Nunavik patients travelling south for care currently stay at this boarding home in downtown Montreal, a facility they'll continue to use until the MNQ opens a new one in 2016. (FILE PHOTO)

Nunavik health officials say the first step in identifying a location for a new Nunavimmiut patient boarding home in Montreal is finding a neighbourhood outside of the city’s downtown core to house it.

To help better serve patients receiving care in the city, Nunavik’s Northern Quebec Module (MNQ) and the Inuulitsivik health centre are eyeing a new location somewhere between the new Montreal University Health Centre and Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport.

Larry Watt, director of out-of-region services for the Nunavik regional board of health and social services, said his department has identified seven Montreal boroughs where the facility could potentially be built: Dorval, Lachine, Lasalle, Côte-Saint-Luc/Hampstead/Montreal West, Côte-des-Neiges/NDG, Ville St-Laurent and Montreal Southwest.

“Our first and foremost concern is to get out of the downtown area,” Watt said. ‘We also want a location not too far from the airport, and the future super-hospital.”

Since 2011, Nunavimmiut patients travelling south for care stay at a 143-bed facility at the YMCA at Atwater Ave. and St. Catherine St. — a facility that is considered temporary.

Regrettably, the area is a magnet for homelessness, addiction and drug dealing, some of which have been known to affect and influence vulnerable Nunavimmiut. The health board wants to avoid that problem in future, Watt said.

The board is awaiting closure of the tender process in early June, Watt said, before contacting the seven boroughs that have been identified as possible hosts for the facility.

“This time, we’ll have the project proponent seek authorization and permits from the borough,” he said. “We hope it will result in us being welcomed and that it will also speed up the process.”

Watt is referring to something he calls the “fiasco,” the 2010 incident when health officials attempted to move the boarding home to a former hospital in the Montreal borough of Villeray.

The borough council and some community members publicly opposed the plan, concerned the home would attract social problems to the neighbourhood. The project eventually fell through.

“It was an awful experience,” Watt said.

But housing patients in Montreal has never been easy, he acknowledges, and the Northern Quebec Module continues to receive some 150 complaints each year from patients unhappy with their experience.

Until the new boarding home opens — that’s expected to happen in February 2016 — the number of patients and escorts vying for the home’s 143 beds will likely increase.

The number of Nunavimmiut patients requiring medical care in the South grew to 6,100 in 2013, up from 5,600 in 2011.

There are no plans at this point to increase the number of beds. Instead, Nunavik health officials are looking to expand tele-health services to the region to cut down on the number of trips south.

As an example, Nunavik’s health board recently announced plans to develop tele-oncology services in the region so physicians can diagnose more cancer cases in patients’ home communities.

“We’re hoping that, eventually, the number of patients going south will stabilize,” Watt said.

The construction or renovation of the Montreal facility will begin in January 2015, with an expected moving date of Feb. 6, 2016.

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