Nunavut plans new long-term care facility for Cambridge Bay

Seven-bed unit will open at the Kitikmeot Health Centre


The second floor of the Kitikmeot Health Centre in Cambridge Bay is slated to become Nunavut's newest long-care facility. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

The second floor of the Kitikmeot Health Centre in Cambridge Bay is slated to become Nunavut’s newest long-care facility. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

CAMBRIDGE BAY — The Kitikmeot Health Centre in Cambridge Bay will soon have a new tenant: a territorial, seven-bed continuing care facility set to open in the spring of 2017 in the centre’s long-underused second floor.

When the $20-millon Kitikmeot Health Centre opened in 2005, it was to become a mini-hospital, with an inpatient unit providing health care services which lower the number of costly medevacs south.

But that didn’t happen.

“We were going to have an inpatient unit, but because there was no housing at the time, we weren’t able to fill 30 nurses positions,” said Clara Evalik, the Nunavut health department’s executive director for the Kitikmeot region, in a recent interview.

The new long-term care facility will take in clients over the age of 19, who are mostly expected to be elders, over 65, needing extra assistance, she said.

The facility will provide a level of care that “Nunavummiut can’t do in their own homes,” Evalik said, and will be similar to what is provided at the GN’s other long-term care facilities in Gjoa Haven, Arviat, Baker Lake, Chesterfield Inlet, Rankin Inlet and Iqaluit.

“We want to provide the same level of care and standards across Nunavut,” she said.

With 52 names on a waiting list for long-term care across Nunavut, Evalik expects that the seven beds in Cambridge Bay will always be full.

The new facility is expected to bring little disruption to other programs which also operate on the second floor of the centre, such as the midwifery unit and physiotherapy services.

But the new long-term care operations will bring new jobs to Cambridge Bay—as well as training opportunities to people in the community, Evalik said.

The repurposing of the centre’s extra space will come five years after Cambridge Bay MLA Keith Peterson, who was then also serving as Nunavut’s minister of health and finance, spoke to the Kitikmeot Inuit Association’s annual general meeting, where he made a promise to get the Kitikmeot Health Centre running up to capacity.

Peterson said he was pained to see the health centre “undervalued, when we have a desperate need for health care needs in the Kitikmeot.”

That is “unacceptable,” he said.

As well, the patient boarding home, which was supposed to allow people from other Kitikmeot communities to come to Cambridge Bay for medical treatment never materialized.

In 2006, when the health centre suffered a fire, materials earmarked to upgrade an old hostel into a patient boarding home were used on the centre’s repairs.

Then, the hostel was to have become an addictions treatment facility. However, it then re-opened in January 2014 as a 12-bed residential mental health facility.

While bringing health care under the GN’s “closer to home” policy didn’t materialize as planned at the health centre, “it was a blessing in disguise that we’re able to do something else with that and the need is definitely there.” Evalik said.

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