Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: -none- September 12, 1997 - 10:16 am

Iqaluit council questions Baffin health board


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT Baffin health board officials who appeared before Iqaluit town council Tuesday night were on the defensive about a recent decision to sever ties with McGill specialists in Montreal.

Ann Hanson, chair of the Baffin Regional Health and Social Services Board, and Pat Kermeen, the board’s chief executive officer, fielded questions from Iqaluit town councillors about the Sept. 30 termination of the Baffin’s 30-year relationship with the McGill-Baffin program.

“I take full responsibility for this initiative about Montreal services,” Hanson told council. “I’m fully to blame and Pat is not at fault.”

Hanson was reacting to a question from Councillor Kenn Harper about whether the decision to sever ties with McGill was made by the board or by the board’s administrators.

At the end of the month, the Baffin board will no longer contract specialist services from McGill in the same way it has in the past. At the same time, the board is pursuing a new deal with the Ottawa Heart Institute, where Baffin patients are already being referred.

Right now, no Baffin patients are being referred to specialists in the North.

Mayor Joe Kunuk said he’s spoken with a number of people who’ve expressed concern about the future of specialist services because of the move from Montreal to Ottawa.

Nunatsiaq News paparazzi?

“That comes from getting information from the paparazzi of the North,” Kermeen rebuffed, referring to a story in last week’s Nunatsiaq News about the move.

Kermeen said some Baffin residents will still be referred to Montreal specialists, though this will no longer be co-ordinated through the McGill-Baffin program.

“I"m not paying co-ordinators in McGill to find physicians for me,” Kermeen explained.

Councillor Harper was dubious about the suggestion that interpreters would take on a larger role with patients in Ottawa, acting as social workers or physiotherapists.

“I’m dismayed to hear that because some interpreters want to work as social workers, you’re agreeing to this,” Harper told Kermeen. “I’m not impressed with that aspect of your plan.”

Poor communication?

Citing a letter by Dr Gary Pekeles that appeared in last week’s Nunatsiaq News, Harper questioned the lack of communication between the board and Dr Pekeles, the director of the McGill-Baffin program, before the decision was made to sever ties with the Montreal service.

Kermeen said she met repeatedly with Dr Pekeles during the past year, but felt the board’s concerns were being ignored.

“It took almost a year working with them to get any movement to decide we were serious,” Kermeen said, adding that the reality of losing hundreds of thousands of dollars has awakened their interest. “They’re unhappy because they’re going to lose $400,000.”

She said with the overhaul of the southern specialist service from McGill to the Ottawa Heart Institute, the board expects to save about $450,000, mainly in administration costs.

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