We’ll create internal committee for QGH, Nunavut’s health minister says

“The motion specifically said a board of management and we all agreed to that”


Health Minister George Hickes says the GN's advisory board for the QGH is

Health Minister George Hickes says the GN’s advisory board for the QGH is “transitional” step. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)

Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak said Feb. 21 she's

Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak said Feb. 21 she’s “very disappointed” in a decision by Health Minister George Hickes to create a GN-run advisory board for the Qikiqtani General Hospital instead of an independent board of management. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)

The Government of Nunavut will create an internal advisory board for Iqaluit’s Qikiqtani General Hospital instead of the independent board of management that MLAs voted for about three years ago, Health Minister George Hickes said Feb. 22 in the legislative assembly.

But Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak says that’s not in line with the spirit of the motion that she sponsored in 2014.

Angnakak has been waiting on a long overdue report from Nunavut’s Department of Health which was supposed to examine the idea of an independent management board hospital.

That idea was was brought forward in a motion Angnakak made back in 2014, which Hickes seconded when he was a regular MLA.

On the opening day of Nunavut’s forth assembly’s winter sitting, Feb. 21, Angnakak got something resembling an answer—but not the one she was looking for.

Hickes responded to Angnakak that his department would instead create a GN-run advisory board.

“I’m very disappointed to hear that,” Angnakak told Hickes during question period.

“The motion specifically said a board of management and we all agreed to that. I don’t think its been brought to this house to see if we all agree if it should be an advisory board or not.”

Angnakak cited a recently tabled audit by Nunavut’s information and privacy commissioner recommending the Qikiqtani General Hospital “be treated in an equivalent way to public bodies such as Nunavut’s Arctic College or the Nunavut Housing Corp.”

Boards of management govern both of those entities, she said.

Hickes countered that the “higher level of scrutiny” placed on health care in Nunavut makes such a drastic change impractical.

“At this time, we felt that in the best interests of moving the project forward instead of waiting, we felt that an advisory board be created to develop capacity within that specific sector to provide and develop expertise so we can move forward,” he said.

Hickes added he can’t speak specifically about how much influence Nunavut’s information and privacy commissioner had in his departments’ decision to create the advisory board.

During a break, Hickes told Nunatsiaq News that the proposed advisory board is a transitional body and “a step in the direction.”

“With the amount of work it would entail to actually create a fully-functional board of directors to oversee the ongoing operations of the hospital, it’s not something you go and grab a few people off the street to do,” he said.

The Department of Health will issue a call for prospective members of the advisory board this April, with the objective to begin implementation in this coming fall, he said.

Calls for more independent oversight over Nunavut’s largest hospital go back to at least 2011, when the GN ignored recommendations from a private consultant that operations in Qikiqtani General Hospital are hampered as a “government-run operation.”

Proponents of the management board argue such a body would allow the hospital to purchase equipment and hire staff according to the institution’s needs.

“Hospitals must have control of their own hiring and have the flexibility to respond to emergency situations without reference to outside authorities,” Ken Lovely of the Millennium Partners consulting firm said in his 2011 GN-commissioned report.

“The accepted mechanism for governing and operating hospitals across the country and in most developed nations is through a board of management.”

Hickes responded that he would be willing to share the information that led to his department’s decision on the advisory board with Angnakak in a private meeting.

“If she still feels [sharing the information with the entire assembly] is a necessary step, its something I’ll explore,” he said.

Members of Nunavut’s Legislative Assembly began their winter sitting Feb. 21 and are expected to continue until March 14.

On Feb. 22, Finance Minister Keith Peterson is to table the GN’s 2017-18 operations budget.

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