Long-delayed Pang health centre to open this spring

Government of Nunavut’s original completion date was November 2008

By GABRIEL ZARATE

The light at the end of the tunnel may finally be approaching for Pangnirtung’s new health centre.

The Government of Nunavut has issued a tender to buy and ship non-medical furniture for the centre by air freight, one of the last steps before the long-delayed facility can open in mid-April, the health and social services department said this week.

“This whole project has been delayed right from the outset,” said the assistant deputy minister of operations, Bruce Peterkin.

Those items should have been on the 2009 sealift, but the department of Health and Social Services did not produce a list of furniture for the Department of Community and Government Services until it was too late.

Peterkin said the health department’s lead staff member on the project fell ill and later died, and that she fell behind on her workload suffered during her illness.

As with all the GN departments, the health department is chronically understaffed and and its employees are overworked.

When one person, for whatever reason, is absent, the rest of the department will experience a tough time catching up.

Peterkin couldn’t say how much the air freight bill for the furniture will cost, since the tender was issued only recently

“Ten per cent more would be a good guesstimate,” he said.

Ron Mongeau, Pangnirtung’s senior administrative officer, scoffed at that figure.

He said there’s a weight restriction on Pangnirtung’s runway, so cargo planes can’t land fully loaded. That means another costly flight might be necessary.

But it’s either that, or wait until July for the next sealift.

Pangnirtung’s health centre has endured a rocky history. The original completion date was November 2008.

During construction, workers ran out of materials at least once, hampering work until new supplies were flown in. The building was mostly completed by March 2009.

Along the way, the health department has issued successive tentative opening dates for the facility.

Mongeau said the last time he or anyone in the hamlet office heard, the health centre was scheduled to open in November 2009.

“We’re not getting any information from the department of health. Neither the mayor or myself have received any notification about the opening of the health centre,” he said.

Another problem is that the Department of Community Government and Services still hasn’t turned the building over to the health department because of minor leaks in the building.

Furniture couldn’t be sent before construction was finished, because Pangnirtung had no capacity to store it until the building was finished.

The furniture that’s due to arrive includes tables, chairs, sofas, lockers, workstations and desks.

In the meantime, Pangnitrung’s older health centre building is still in use. The medical equipment there will be moved to the new facility once it’s ready to go.

“We apologize for this and are confident that the new furniture will arrive mid-April thus completing the necessary work to ready the Pangnirtung Health Centre for occupancy,” Peterkin said.

Mongeau said the old building dates back to the early 1970s and its physical plant is deteriorating.

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