Business as usual, KRHB chair says
Though the hamlet of Rankin Inlet wants her to resign and the Union of Northern Workers wants a public inquiry into the organization she heads, the chair of the Keewatin Regional Health Board, Elizabeth Palfrey, is still conducting business as usual.
For Elizabeth Palfrey, the beleaguered chair of the Keewatin Regional Health Board, leaving her job is the last thing on her mind.
That’s in spite of the fact that she and her fellow board members are now beset by a variety of angry critics inside and outside of the Keewatin region.
The Union of Northern Workers and several hamlet councils are infuriated by recent changes the Keewatin health board has made to the way dentistry and other health services are delivered in the Keewatin.
The latest salvo to be fired across the bows of the good ship KRHB came from just across town, when the Rankin Inlet hamlet council demanded her resignation in a resolution passed unanimously July 17.
Another was fired from Yellowknife July 21 by the Union of Northern Workers, who in the latest issue of their newsletter “Eye on the Ledge,” are demanding a public inquiry into the Keewatin health board.
Defamation suit against UNW
For her part, Palfrey says she’s launched a defamation suit against the UNW, who in her opinion are ruining her reputation.
“I’ve launched a personal legal action against the UNW for their continued defamation of my good name and maligning my character,” Palfrey said this week.
“Since the matter will be before the courts, and will be open, I don’t think a public inquiry is the appropriate avenue to review the allegations of a few people in the UNW who continue to harrass me.”
Palfrey also said she and other board officials are now looking into the possibility of launching a similar court action against the UNW on behalf of the KRHB.
In an article entitled “Keewatin ‘rat’s nest’ needs airing,” the UNW alleges that Palfrey, along with at least two other board members have, or had, an “indirect ownership relationship” with Kiguti Dental Services.
On July 1, Kiguti, owned 49 per cent by Rankin Inlet’s Tapirit development corporation, and 51 per cent by dentists Hassan Adam and Charles Pastori, began offering dental services in the Keewatin.
The UNW says Palfrey owns shares in a company called the Qammanittuaq Capital Corporation, which indirectly owns a part of Kiguti “through a complicated corporate ownership structure ending with Tapiriit Development Corporation Ltd.”
They also say in their newsletter that board member Dorothy Gibbons owns shares in the Arviat Development Corporation, which also owns shares in Tapiriit, and that board member Donat Milortuk’s name “D. Milortuk” appeared on the list of shareholders of Kangiqliniq Development Ltd., which also owns shares in Tapiriit.
To make way for the new dental service, the health board laid off four dental therapists, enraging the Union of Northern Workers and the hamlet councils of Arviat, Baker Lake and Rankin Inlet.
Palfrey denies conflict allegations
Palfrey, however, insists that no matter what the UNW says, no Keewatin health board member was in a conflict of interest when they agreed to the board’s contract with Kiguti last fall.
“We have a conflict of interest policy in plae that’s adhered to and it’s finished with as far as we’re concerned,” Palfrey says.
In December, 1996, Palfrey wrote to Aviat Mayor David Alagalak to deny that any board member was in conflict of interest when discussing the Kiguti contract in October, 1996.
“Said item appeared in the Agenda of the Octoberm 1996 KRHB meeting (during which proposals to significantly improve the elivery of the Dental Theraoy program were discussed). As no Trustee declared a conflict of interest, we have to conclude that none exists.
Palfrey also told Nunatsiaq News that as chair of the board, she does not normally vote on board motions.
UNW wants wide probe
UNW official Ben McDonald says, however, that the UNW believes there should be a public inquiry not only into the specific deal that the health board struck with Kiguti, but into the whole network of private development corporations and other businesses that dominate the Keewatin’s economy.
“It’s the Keewatin corporate structure, the way business is done in the Keewatin,” McDonald said.
Mcdonald said the Keewatin’s system of private development corporations with the help of the Evaz group and a consulting firm called Piruqsaijiit seems to be sucking up huge amounts of territorial government money.
“It seems like all the money going into the Keewatin out of the GNWT gets into this network of companies,” McDonald said. “There’s millions of public money getting into this network of companies. It’s the same network that’s drawn the Keewatin health board into a relationship with Kiguti.”
McDoanld said there may be many in the Keewatin who don’t even know that they may be in a conflict of interest.
“They’ve got capital corporations that own development companies that own other companies that provide services. They’ve got interrelated directors, they’ve got common shareholders, they’ve got corporation “A” owning shares in corporation “B” and corporation “B” owning shares in corporation “A.”
“By the time all this is done, when you have a person sitting on a board and they have shares in one corporation, maybe through seven interrelated situations that they nothing about, they could be in a situation that could appear to be a conflict.”
For that reason, McDonald says an independent public inquiry could “more clearly define the nature of what the public interest is as opposed to the private interest.”
McDonald also said the inquiry should have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents, and must not be controlled by the GNWT.
Says hamlet uninformed
As for her problems with the hamlet of Rankin Inlet, Palfrey says the board has already written to the hamlet council “expressing dismay” at their demands for Palfrey’s resignation.
In addition to the layoff of the Keewatin’s four dental therapists, Rankin hamlet councillors were also upset at changes in the health board’s relationship with the University of Manitoba’s northern medical unit.
“Their decision was based on what they read in the paper about negotiations between ourselves and the northern medical unit,” Palfrey said.
She said the Keewatin health board wants to save money, and “repatriate” northern money that’s going to Manitoba by having general practitioners provide services in the Keewatin rather than in Churchill.
And she said the board is also negotating directly with medical specialists whose services used to be supplied through the University of Manitoba.