Nunavut elder’s facility in Iqaluit on life support

Too small, underfunded and unable to deal with high needs seniors

By STEVE DUCHARME

Caroline Anawak, general manager of the recently-renamed Pairijait Tigumiaqtukkut Society, which runs the Tammaativvik boarding home in Iqaluit along with the eight-bed elders facility, says the number of high-needs elders is growing and staff training at the facility is sorely lacking. There are 40 elders currently on a wait list for a place at the elders facility. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)


Caroline Anawak, general manager of the recently-renamed Pairijait Tigumiaqtukkut Society, which runs the Tammaativvik boarding home in Iqaluit along with the eight-bed elders facility, says the number of high-needs elders is growing and staff training at the facility is sorely lacking. There are 40 elders currently on a wait list for a place at the elders facility. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)

Iqaluit’s elders centre is in dire need of expansion, facility upgrades and staff training — and that’s just the start.

Details of those shortfalls were made plain at this year’s Pairijait Tigumiaqtukkut Society annual general meeting in Iqaluit Jan. 27 as board members gathered to hear what’s taken place over the past year and figure out a way forward for 2016.

“I can’t say it’s a growing need. It grew,” Pairijait Tigumiaqtukkut Society’s general manager Carolyn Anawak told Nunatsiaq News, referring to Nunavut’s expanding elder population.

“It caught everybody flat-footed in planning.”

Anawak, who took over as the society’s general manager in 2014, oversees operations at the Tammaativvik Iqaluit Patient Boarding Home and Iqaluit’s elders centre.

Tammaativvik gives support and services to patients and their families coming to, or through, Iqaluit for treatment, and eight elders reside full-time at the Elders’ Centre.

The centre’s waitlist now stands at 40 people.

And the Tammaativvik boarding home, already crippled with capacity issues, is stuck making some difficult decisions.

“We have 90 beds in [Tammaativvik] but often times there are over 100 patients boarding with several rooms repurposed to accommodate them such as the TV room and the meeting room, and this has been the situation for approximately two months,” Anawak told the board.

The society is relying on hotels, as well as the kindness of relatives and acquaintances in town, to take in visiting patients after every available square foot of the boarding home is occupied.

According to statistics presented at the meeting, the boarding home had 916 incoming medical patients last October, 894 in November, and 709 in December.

In December alone, that means an increase of 134 patients over 2014.

And now the society faces a hard situation with the Government of Nunavut.

That’s because the level of care required by many patients now exceeds what the society is supposed to provide in its contract with the GN — but the GN isn’t giving the society any additional funding to train its staff for that higher level of care, Anawak said.

“Our contract with the government states that our facility serves Level 1 and 2 clients who have much fewer needs, however the clients that have come in the past year are very high need, Level 3 to 5,” read the Elder’s report, made public at the society’s AGM.

The society submitted proposals to the Department of Health, the Department of Family Services and to the development-based Kakivak Association for training funding — all were unsuccessful.

And in 2014, the society’s board passed a motion to raise its budget to hire more staff.

But the Department of Family Services chose to ignore their request and give them the same amount as the previous year.

“We’re on our own,” said Anawak, “Its not just for risk management, its because it’s the right thing to do. We cannot have people in positions without the proper training to support elder care.”

Despite the big hurdles that the society faces in 2016, there were a some victories announced at the AGM.

The Nunavut Housing Corp. plans to give $515,000 to the society for renovations to the boarding home.

This money will go towards repairing carpet tears, unfinished plumbing and surface repairs on walls hit by wheelchairs and gurneys.

And the home’s 20-year-old nurse call system, which has been broken for a year, will now be replaced.

“The good thing about it, because [the repairs] are being done at the same time as the nurse call system, it will be a totally refreshed facility. Long overdue,” said Anawak, who began lobbying for the repairs after she took over as general manager.

For the past year, the society has resorted to bells, bought from Staples, in lieu of a functioning call system.

The Sailivik Society, with help from Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak, is proposing a new elder care facility in the city and they recently got support from Iqaluit city council.

The hoped-for territorial facility would add an additional 80 beds for long-term elder care.

On Jan. 26, city council formally backed the project with Mayor Madeleine Redfern citing elders care as “one of the most pressing needs in our infrastructure” in a letter of support.

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