NEWS: Nunavut June 03, 2015 - 7:10 am

Nunavut MLAs complain about Kivalliq elder care problems

"Individuals visiting their parents end up cooking meals, doing laundry"


One of Nunavut’s four long-term care facilities for elders is in a state of disarray, while the government drags its heels in the face of an obvious need for another facility.

That was the message from two MLAs — Alex Sammurtok from Rankin Inlet South and Simeon Mikkungwak from Baker Lake — conveyed to Nunavut cabinet ministers May 29 in the legislative assembly.

“I rise today to address a growing number of concerns with the Martha Taliruq elder’s facility in Baker Lake,” Mikkungwak said during his member’s statement.

Those concerns include the condition of the facility, the preparation of meals, staff behaviour towards residents, and financial matters, which are “getting into serious disarray,” Mikkungwak said.

“It concerns me to hear that individuals visiting their parents end up cooking meals, doing laundry and cleaning the kitchen,” he added.

“There must be oversight to ensure that elders’ centres… are properly managed and provide safe, comfortable and healthy environments for our elders.”

During the assembly’s question period, Mikkungwak asked Jeannie Ugyuk, minister of family services — the department responsible for managing Nunavut’s elders’ facilities — if her department is aware of these problems at the Baker Lake facility.

Ugyuk replied that her staff visited the facility earlier this year and “now we have some capital work projects on the table.”

Uyguk did not say what those projects are.

When Mikkungwak asked Ugyuk if her staff undertakes facility inspections to ensure necessary service standards, Ugyuk replied that during their visit, staff noted meal plans “were of concern.”

“We agreed under a memorandum of understanding to improve [meal plans] under the current agreement,” she said.

In his final follow-up question, Mikkungwak said the Canada Revenue Agency is now involved in the financial matters of the facility because staff are not getting paid on time.

“Will the minister commit to providing adequate support and assistance… to get [the facility’s] financial affairs in order?” Mikkungwak asked.

“My officials are listening to the proceeding as we speak and I ask that they look at this issue,” Ugyuk replied.

Rankin Inlet South MLA Sammurtok, meanwhile, continued his push for an elders’ care facility in Rankin Inlet.

Sammurtok presented a petition during the assembly’s 2015 winter sitting requesting that the Government of Nunavut open a 24-hour elders’ facility in his Kivalliq-region community.

That petition attracted 142 signatures in only two weeks, Sammurtok said in the assembly March 2.

The GN tabled its reply to the petition in the house May 26, saying it would conduct a long-term care needs assessment.

Sammurtok used his member’s statement May 29 to tell the GN he was “disappointed” by the announced assessment because the need for an elders’ care facility in Rankin Inlet is already “clear.”

“Rankin Inlet’s population is the second largest in Nunavut after Iqaluit, which not only has an elders’ facility but also has a designated elders’ residence,” Sammurtok said.

Six Rankin Inlet elders have had to be sent to other communities with elders’ facilities, and four more require increasing care at home, Sammurtok added.

“Our elders should not have to wait for long-drawn needs assessments to be completed. We should instead be focusing on building a new elders’ facility… so that our elders can be cared for in their home community near their families.”

During oral question period, Sammurtok asked health minister Paul Okalik when the assessment will be finalized.

“I can’t say right now when it will be finalized, but it’s being assessed properly,” Okalik replied.

Sammurtok asked why the GN would carry out an assessment when it’s already clear that Rankin Inlet needs an elders’ care facility.

“It’s going to be an expensive matter, so we have to set it up properly so that it can operate well into the future,” Okalik replied.

“Will the minister commit to tabling the long-term care needs assessment during the 2015 fall session?” Sammurtok asked.

“I can’t say when the assessment will be completed, [but] I’ll be able to table it in the House when it’s done,” Okalik said.