Report urges private money for new Iqaluit hospital

A consultant hired by the GNWT says private businesses may be the only source of money to pay for our health care in the future.



In the twenty-first century, a big chunk of our health care system could end up in the hands of private businesses.

That is, if the GNWT follows the advice of a southern consulting company that released a major report in health care in the NWT this week.

The Mississauga-based company, called Med-Emerg, recommends a greater role for private companies in the administration of health and social services.

And a GNWT bureaucrat said this week that some of those private companies could turn out to be aboriginal-owned

David Ramsden, the NWT’s deputy minister of health, said Inuit birthright corporations are well poised to get in on health care action.

“It’s not a big stretch to say, let’s talk about the option of the government putting some money on the table, and an aboriginal development corporation or other sources of private funding bringing other money together,” said Ramsden, who was in Iqaluit with Health Minister Kelvin Ng this week to discuss the recently released Med-Emerg Report.

“I think there’s lots of room for an outside person to come in and provide some expertise.”

A subsidiary of the Inuvialuit Development Corp., for instance, already runs kitchen and laundry services at Stanton Regional Hospital in Inuvik, Ramsden said.

Commissioned by the NWT government to review current health care programs in the North, the Med-Emerg Report also calls for tighter controls over medical-travel assistance, the introduction of a midwifery program, and a task force to look into the role and regulation of traditional healers in aboriginal communities.

Private money for Iqaluit hospital?

To help pay for new hospitals in Iqaluit and Inuvik, the report says the GNWT should look for money from private businesses.

And the report recommends that plans be made immediately to build two new regional hospitals, one in Iqaluit and one in Inuvik.

Under the 1988 agreement that transferred health service from Ottawa to the GNWT’s Yellowknife government, Ottawa promised to pay $42 million for a badly-needed new hospital in Iqaluit.

Ottawa also agreed to set aside money to pay for a new hospital in Inuvik.

But the GNWT never kept its end of the deal. Last year, GNWT officials revealed that they had already spent Yellowknife’s share of new hospital construction money.

Money siphoned into Keewatin, Kitikmeot?

And it now looks as if at least some of that Iqaluit and Inuvik hospital money may be siphoned off to help pay for new ­ and perhaps privatized ­ health facilities in Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay.

Med-Emerg consultants recommends that the GNWT set up a committee to figure out how to spread new hospital construction money between Cambridge Bay, Rankin Inlet, Inuvik and Baffin.

Med-Emerg calls it a “Capital Co-ordinating Committee,” and recommends that it be run by an outside party.

They also say the new committee should look at ways of bringing in private businesses to plan new facilities and look at ways of forming partnerships between private businesses and government.

New names, new acronyms

Med-Emerg consultants also make recommendations on a decision that the GNWT has already made ­ to merge and redesign the previously separate departments of Health and Social Services.

They’re also suggesting an alphabet soup of new acronyms to name new regional bodies that would bring health and services together in each region.

For example, they say responsibility for health and social services in each region should be transferred to Integrated Health and Social Service Authorities (IHSSAs)

Each integrated health and social-service authority would have a board of trustees appointed by the minister of health and social services, Med-Emerg says.

And community health centres would be renamed “health and social service centres.”

Closer co-operation between caregivers in each community and between local health authorities and the Ministry, the report’s authors say, will help keep medical costs down.

Privatization of patient travel?

So will reducing travel to and from hospitals. That’s why the the Med-Emerg report is recommending that regional health and social-services authorities develop new clinical guidelines for medical travel outside communities.

It further recommends that each region hire a private contractor to co-ordinate and dispatch medical travel according to guidelines.

Ramsden said that regional health boards also need to figure out where patients will be sent for hospital treatment after division of the Northwest Territories in 1999, .

“Whether you’re talking Nunaut or the western territory, people need consensus around whether hospitals should remain regional referrals or territory wide,” said Ramsden.

Care still publically-funded?

Although the report alludes to a greater role for the private sector in many areas of health administration, Ramsden said the “care of people will still be funded publicly.”

“We’re not the least bit interested in privatized health care,” he said.

A key recommendation in the Med-Emerg report is for the health ministries of the territories to establish of an integrated electronic database that will permit caregivers to share individual health records.

“We’re going to go a long way to embrace the spirit of the recommendations, but I’d hate to think we have to have one solution to fit everywhere.”

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