11 community health centres to shut down this summer

Shutdowns will be temporary and range from days to weeks, health minister says

Eleven communities’ health centres will close temporarily during the summer, Nunavut Health Minister John Main said. Those closures will range from days to weeks and due staffing shortages. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

By David Lochead

Eleven of Nunavut’s 25 communities will see their health centres shut down temporarily during the summer due to staffing shortages, according to Nunavut’s health minister.

Igloolik, Whale Cove, Kimmirut, Chesterfield Inlet, Sanikiluaq, Pangnirtung, Grise Fiord, Kinngait, Gjoa Haven, Pond Inlet and Coral Harbour will all see shutdowns this summer, Health Minister John Main told Nunatsiaq News.

“I understand the importance of health centres and I really regret this has to happen,” Main told the legislature Monday in response to a question about health centre closures asked by Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk.

Some communities will be closed for weeks and others for days, Main said, adding he is hesitant to get more specific because the length of closures may change.

There will still be staff in the health centres during closures, but they will be focused on emergencies and life-threatening situations only, Main said.

During closures, some services will not be available or will be delayed, Main said.

The closures are due to nursing shortages in the communities, Main said. He added that a lack of available nurses to come to the communities and staff burnout are two of the larger reasons for that shortage.

A lack of available health staff is a problem being tackled not only in Nunavut, but across Canada, he added.

But the root of the challenge is that the GN is struggling to keep up with the number of nurses needed for Nunavut’s growing communities, Main said, adding that the health infrastructure is not growing alongside the communities.

“It’s been quite a while that this has been a concern” Main said.

“It’s something we have to tackle as the Department of Health.”

For health situations that are chronic, such as getting prescriptions, Main recommended reaching out to health centre staff before the closure. He added that otherwise those services will be delayed or have to be done virtually.

To alleviate the reduction in services, the GN is bringing back a program it ran last year where two paramedics are provided to communities with closures, Main said. He added the GN will also provide virtual health services to communities.

Doctor visits to communities with health centre closures will also still take place, Main said.

To try and limit the length of closures or avoid them altogether, the GN has developed a task force, Main said.

He added that one of the initiatives of that task force includes reallocating staff from one community to another.

In order to help, Health staff in communities have also been delaying their leave, he said.

The department also runs a program where staff who are working in a community over the summer can have a friend or family member flown with them, with the GN covering the cost of that person’s flight.

“We’ve been doing what we can to avert this,” he said.

The problem of health centre closures is not new. In 2021, two health centres closed during the summer and eight had service cuts due to the nursing shortage.

Communities whose health centres are going to close will get notice two weeks in advance, Main said.

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(43) Comments:

  1. Posted by Skunk Works tools of EDUCATION on

    The quality of EDUCATION in Nunavut should be taken into consideration to ensure proper make-up is assured to deliver ACADEMIC program’s K to Gr.12. These curriculum delivered as expected in Academic level?
    – English/ Grammar
    – Mathematics
    – General Science
    – Inuktitut
    – Physical Education

    The actual programs that is feasible to learning education such as Science, and Nursing etc.

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  2. Posted by Priorities on

    But at least McGill University, ITK and NTI are pouring in money to be able to try and label Arviat Health Care workers as racists. Great way to attract more health care workers.

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    • Posted by Perriwater on

      Funny, but sadly too much truth to it. A great example of what to expect from unaccountable organizations populated by a social class that is completely detached from the realities of those they were designed to serve.

      Basically, they are paying about half a million for a finely worded book report with a collection of credentialed names attached.

      Meanwhile, in the real world, our communities are experiencing a trend in the direction of less and less care… will NTI, ITK or any of the saviour profs from southern universities do a thing to help where we really need it?

      I suspect we know the answer.

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      • Posted by Rolling eyes on

        Yeah let’s blame the Inuit organizations on this 🙄

        What is it with some of you? Whatever the GN does or lack there off you blame someone else, the GN for the last 6 years have known this was coming, band aid solutions and no real work put in by the higher ups to resolve the degrading situation for the last few years by the GN.

        But hey let’s blame the Inuit organizations lol

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        • Posted by iRoll indeed on

          Astonishingly simplistic take on what has been said honestly

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        • Posted by Dear Aluki…. on

          Please ensure NTIs administrative cut of this funding is deployed properly, I think at this rate NTI could do four community BBQs instead of only the Nunavut Day one.

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        • Posted by Thomas Shelby on

          So don’t blame the Inuit orgs, always blame the GN? The Inuit orgs get millions of dollars every year and throw it away on giving away snowmobiles or something else that is completely useless, why don’t they put it towards something useful.

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          • Posted by Timmy on

            Who’s responsible for healthcare in Nunavut? Who has known for years that this was coming and failed to do anything?

            Yes Inuit Organizations get millions each year and that funding is from the one time payment from the federal government, 1.1 billion one time payment for Nunavut to be part of Canada.
            Here the GN gets billions each year, a budget of 2.4 Billion for one year.

            How can we not blame the GN? Not just with this but with so many things the GN keeps screwing up on, healthcare, housing, infrastructure, education the list goes on, all the while the GN wastes precious time and resources, wasting so many millions due to the GNs incompetence.
            But yeah, let’s look the other way and blame someone else.

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            • Posted by Missed Point on

              Clearly the GN is responsible for this, no one above is suggesting otherwise. The pokes at the Inuit orgs by the OP are because they have in fact decided to throw money at healthcare with a completely frivolous waste of limited resources. Mockery follows and it is well placed.

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              • Posted by Bigger picture on

                It is getting a little more embarrassing how our government keeps messing up, I find it interesting when the GN messes up so bad some of us try to deflect it by poking at Inuit organizations instead of focusing on the issue, the GN,
                The millions wasted by the housing corp is a fine example, with such terrible management and millions wasted and houses not being built this was dusted under the rug and we can all act like everything is fine.
                It’s just continues to happen but let’s poke somewhere else.

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                • Posted by Whatever floats yer boat on

                  Poke at both if you want, they both deserve it, no one is saying otherwise.

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                  • Posted by Yes on

                    Point taken, now if we could only put the focus on the GN and demand some accountability and work to fix all the issues we have with the GN.
                    But yeah we can poke at both and move on to the next one.

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  3. Posted by Susa on

    Over the years Inuit have become too dependent on nurses for small things they used to be able to do. There needs to be a first aid course happening in communities.

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    • Posted by Terry on

      Yeah I’m having chest pain, can someone tell me is it’s my heart or just something I eat? Your first aid course can figure it out.

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    • Posted by Holistic on

      You mean like the kid who comes to school with a seal oil soaked tuft of tundra cotton sticking in his ear to treat an ear infection?

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  4. Posted by State of Emergency on

    This is crazy! Hopefully there will be no emergencies in those communities, no direct healthcare services the GN should be asking the federal government for support during this time.
    This was talked about two years ago where possible shortages might happen, what has the GN done since to try and resolve this?

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    • Posted by Thomas Shelby on

      Its hard for the GN or Feds to do anything when the whole country is having a shortage, they can’t take from one to give to the other, if its going to leave one short, duh. Maybe read before you comment.

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      • Posted by Mass Formation on

        And who fired hundreds, thousands of great nurses?

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  5. Posted by Retention Package on

    The Department of Health promised a nursing retention package was in the works years ago. The same individual in the Nunatsiaq article promising this as then Chief Nursing Officer is now ADM of Operations and has still not delivered.
    .
    Here’s what you do:
    -increase wages 30%. Physicians are paid over $1000 a day so pay the rest of the team fairly and more attractively than NWT.
    -provide education leave for staff to upgrade and get a break at the same time
    -respect for staff, not denying vacation requests or shift trades requests arbitrarily.
    .
    I’ll send my consulting bill to John Main.

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    • Posted by Scrubs on

      Friend, Nunavut isn’t even competitive with Northern Ontario.

      And no amount of money is worth the way the GN treats contract/agency nurses, which are a huge bulk of healthcare staff.

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      • Posted by Retention Package on

        I think factoring in the various parts of their wage allowances (uniform etc) and northern allowance a newer indeterminate nurse earns about $60/hour before overtime. Nunavut offers the lowest income tax in the country also (nearly five figure difference from Ontario). Can you elaborate where in Northern Ontario you mean for anyone looking at other options?

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        • Posted by Scrubs on

          Travel nursing is considerably more lucrative across the board, and a CHN in Nunavut actually requires significant experience. Places like Thunder Bay are having pretty sharp shortages, for example- and they treat their contractors better than the GN.

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    • Posted by Iqaluit Mom on

      The way nurses are treated in Nunavut is well known in healthcare circles. Management does not appreciate them, they have to fight for education leave, and those who actually try their best to care for patients get gaslighted into doing OT.

      Managers are not held accountable, experienced nurses don’t get listened to when they suggest ways to improve the system, and God forbid they actually raise a safety issue.

      Want to keep nurses in an environment that is not in any way competitive with the rest of Canada? Have all staff give a management review and actually follow up with the results. Staff leave toxic managers, not workplaces.

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      • Posted by Scrubs on

        That’s what I did. The GNs wages are both longer competitive with other remote stations. Other places treat me like a human being, I get better quarters and better pay. As much as I love Nunavut, I’m not here to gaslit and bullied.

        I watched one nurse get blacklisted for turning down an extention, another was bullied by her GN NIC so badly she had three days of panic attacks and went home after a week.

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  6. Posted by PissedOff on

    Government of Canada has always failed the Inuit community.

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    • Posted by Correction on

      Correction for the last two decades it has been the Government of Nunavut that has been failing Inuit.
      This one is on the GN, so many times this government has failed us, but some like to blame someone else for some reason, either the feds or the Inuit organizations but not the GN.

      Pretty much what is wrong with Nunavut comes down to the GN.

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      • Posted by Thomas Shelby on

        Really? All I ever hear is Inuit blaming the GN for everything, the Inuit Orgs get millions every year and where does that money go? Snowmobile giveaway LOL If someone has a bad day, its the GN fault, if someone’s toilet is clogged its the GN’s fault for not providing better housing, because Nurses need a vacation, its the GN’s fault, food pricing is too high, its the GN’s fault. When are people going to realize they need to stop blaming the GN and look in the mirror to see who the real problem is.

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        • Posted by Retention Package on

          The GN is a public government, but it is essentially an Inuit government. If not all, virtually all of the MLAs are Inuit. With what must be the largest budget per capita in the world it is hard to understand why the GN cannot deliver. I worry how much worse an NTI self government would do, they can barely staff themselves to critique the GN let alone provide services to beneficiaries from what must be 2-3 billion in assets now.

      • Posted by PissedOff on

        Do a research on how inuit, matës, and First Nations people were treated.
        Think about it, indigenous communities are always treated like they don’t matter.
        Government of Canada has always failed their own indigenous people, the founders of the land.

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        • Posted by iThink on

          PissedOff demonstrates the piteous distortions that result from an identity built around internalized victim-hood. Which is to advertise to the world “I am weak, I am powerless and I am always the victim.”

          What a sad way to live.

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  7. Posted by Name Withheld on

    1st Ensure that each NIC in those communities who are hired to be the supervisor, are allowed to supervise the local staff without the Director in those regions getting involved.

    2nd, Parents should know if a child has fever to try cold cloth, Tylenol to bring it down, if all fails then bring them to the clinic. Not vice-versa.

    With proper local staff supporting the Nurses in these communities. The Nurse wouldn’t be soo overwhelmed,as one too many times they end up doing alot of the other things themselves aside from proving care for patients, as most times the local staff aren’t getting along with each other.

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    • Posted by Scrubs on

      1. The Directors will always refuse to cede any amount of power, and also maintain their own blacklists of nurses who challenged them in any way. One of the best ways for a contract or casual NIC to end up on that blacklist is to complain about said employees, or try to get a toxic person removed.

      2. An absurd amount of time is spent dealing with bullies and local disputes. Some facilities are triple-staffed (at least on paper- local job attendance on a good day is atrocious) because X won’t work with Y, or Z is now A’s new boyfriend and they ‘can’t come in’.

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  8. Posted by Unknown on

    about the medication. Some can’t bring home medication some have to go to the HC each night to take the medication infront of the nurse

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    • Posted by Thomas Shelby on

      I assume you mean Methadone and yes they need to figure that out, Health knows all to well about people who need this service, hopefully they have a plan in place.

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  9. Posted by Jimmy on

    We can blame “supply-chain issues”, “difficulty hiring staff”, “the pandemic”, or “inflation” all we like. The sad fact is that this country has been falling apart, by dribs and drabs, for the last two or three decades. We haven’t been paying attention to that fact and the various governments of the day have been throwing money around like there’s no tomorrow. But there IS a tomorrow and we’re in it up to our necks now.
    Nunavut will continue to suffer as the feds try to extricate themselves from the financial mess they have created. It will be a bumpy ride for the next decade at least.
    We all need to create a strategy for self-help, because the government is not going to be “there for us”, or “have our backs” (to use just two of JT’s favourite catch-phrases).

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  10. Posted by Mass Formation on

    It’s just 2 summer closures (2021). It’s just 8 service cuts (2021). It’s just 11 summer closures (2022). The slow drip to accept Health centres closures to get you to accept what’s coming. It’s just one Hamlet permanently closed forever. It’s just 8…11 Hamlets permanently closed. First it’s the Health centres closures to peeve off the residents so they move out themselves and into the larger communities. Watch Rankin’s major water/sewage repairs suddenly have a pipeline of money flowing for the repairs. Keep an eagle eye on Iqaluit’s 20-year plan for more clues of massive influx of residents (2025-2028). And especially watch over crowding explode in the larger communities. While the GN stays tight-lipped on overcrowding but over the top loud with, ‘We care about your health’ sound bites.

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    • Posted by Pork Pie on

      Interesting and provocative comment. There are some good observations here and I agree with some of what you’ve said. I am not onboard with the idea that this was by design, though. Is that what you are suggesting?

      • Posted by Scrubs on

        My suggestion would be to gut the department of health. There have been failures at every level there, particularly at the regional level. Second, stop trying to get indeterminate nurses: very few people are willing to bring a family north for any amount of time. Instead, focus on a job sharing system where there are nurses regularly going to the same hamlets on a loop, instead of a series of new faces who only visit a community a few times. Thirdly, put in a robust system for complaints for contract nurses. Nunavut is stuck with them for the foreseeable future, and making sure they come back should be a priority.

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  11. Posted by Ian on

    Bring in the army, oh we already did that, maybe time for the feds to take health over like before, Nunavut is failing if you cannot provide the basic necessity’s of life, give it up GN

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  12. Posted by napoleon on

    That is what happens when napoleon dynamite becomes health minister lol

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  13. Posted by Tyler Reed on

    The reason we have no nurses is because the Department of Health doesn’t support the good ones. They don’t support the Nurses who go above and beyond to become a part of a new community and (God forbid) build relationships with Inuit people. They support rats, who are willing to sell out their ethics and values for more money, a promotion, more “power”. Make no mistake, GN higher ups and the drone nurses they choose to support profit financially when the health of a Community and the Inuit are poor. More emergencies, more OT, more upper management jobs that do nothing. Wake up, the Health upper management and drone nurses gain from Inuit pain. But the nurses who really care and stabilize a Community are seen as “threats” to the drone nurses and executives. Healthier Communities means accepting culturally competent ways of care. And a system that works, cuts down on OT and the number of upper management jobs. A system that works for the Inuit means accepting you can no longer profit from Inuit people’s pain and suffering. The rats won’t ever accept that.

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  14. Posted by Frank on

    As an old person, I’ve been experiencing a multitude of (maybe) minor health concerns over the past two years, but none of those concerns can be called “an emergency”. Eventually they will culminate in a real emergency and then maybe I’ll be able to get past the nurses and actually see a doctor, IF a doctor is even in town. Is death an emergency?
    The whole system stinks.

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