Nunavut municipalities want regional health boards back

“Transparent health care delivery systems for all Nunavummiut”


The Nunavut Association of Municipalities wants to see the Government of Nunavut dump its health department and go back to the way things used to be done under the Government of the Northwest Territories, when three regional boards oversaw health services in what is now Nunavut.

In a resolution passed last May at its annual meeting, and circulated earlier this month among municipal officials, the NAM says it will go all the way to the Premier of Nunavut to get satisfaction on its desire to see the GN reinstate regional health boards.

In 2010, NAM also unanimously passed a resolution calling on the GN to reintroduce regional health boards.

But this year’s resolution notes Nunavut’s health minister hadn’t responded to that resolution to the satisfaction of NAM.

So now municipal officials want the NAM executive to meet with the health minister “to express our concern over the lack of response to this very important issue and urge the minister to establish regional health boards to provide accountable and transparent health care delivery systems for all Nunavummiut.”

If the health minister doesn’t meet with the executives within a reasonable period of time, the resolution says they will request a meeting with the Premier of Nunavut “to address this issue.”

The GN scrapped the regional health board for the three regions of Nunavut in 2000.

But, even before they were replaced by the territory’s health department, the regional health boards had endured many crises and racked up impressive deficits, with a 1997 review recommending that the GNWT health department monitor more closely the operations and programs of regional health boards.

The financially-troubled Baffin health board reported a deficit of $4.7 million as of April 1, 1999, and was forced to reduce public health and other “wellness” programs to save money.

Before division, the Baffin region’s health board had its share of troubles.

“The staff is demoralized and many have left,” Ken MacRury, appointed interim chief executive officer of the Baffin regional board said in 1997. “At the board management level, there has not been an emphasis on human resources. There’s been change in just about everything and very little stability This has caused a high degree of anxiety in the staff.”

The regional health boards also suffered upheavals in personnel, including a crisis in 1998 when the chair of the Keewatin health board quit, the chief executive officer was fired and its sole doctor quit.

Many hamlets lambasted the regional health boards’ performance.

In 1997, the regional health boards came under fire for controversial moves such as the Baffin regional board’s decision to transfer southern medical care services from Montreal to Ottawa.

Or the Keewatin board’s decision to break off its longstanding service contract with the University of Manitoba’s northern medical unit, leaving it short of medical and dental staff.

Three hamlets, Rankin Inlet, Baker Lake and Arviat, now in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut, said they’d had it with the board wanted to go it alone in providing health care to community residents.

Then-health minister Kelvin Ng said the three hamlets were wrong in saying that their desire to run their own health programs was in line with the GNWT’s community empowerment policy.

Talk about reinstating the regional health boards has bubbled up before.

In 2004, Premier Paul Okalik resisted any push to reinstate regional education and health boards during his speech to Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.’s annual general assembly in Rankin Inlet.

Kitikmeot Inuit Association president Charlie Evalik asked the premier to revive the more localized administration of health and education because he felt communities needed more decision-making power.

Okalik refused, saying that the boards were “past their time.”

“Our focus is on providing more support to our teachers and our health workers, not more administration,” he said.

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