'There's just so much chaos in health.'

Health gets seventh boss in seven years


Nunavut's troubled Department of Health and Social Services got a little more troubled last week, after Premier Paul Okalik announced that Ron Browne will quit as the department's deputy minister after only 11 months on the job.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the federal government were to move in and take over the health department. There's just so much chaos in health," one disgruntled Government of Nunavut employee said this week on condition of anonymity.

Browne, an ex-boss of the Whitehorse General Hospital, started work with the Nunavut government in June of 2006. His resignation is effective at the end of next week, May 18.

A GN press release issued May 4 doesn't say whether Browne's resignation is voluntary.

Okalik will replace Browne with Alex Campbell, a veteran civil servant who until now has served as deputy minister for the Department of Economic Development and Trans­portation.

Rosemary Keenainak, who served as assistant deputy minister in the Finance department for the past 11 months, will now move into the top job at the economic department.

Campbell is the seventh boss to be thrown into the health department since 1999.

Here's a list of his predecessors, and their estimated periods of employment:• Ken Macrury: 1999-2000;

  • Andrew Johnston: 2000-2002;
  • Keith Best: 2002-2003;
  • Bernie Blais: 2003-2006;
  • Dave Ramsden: 2006
  • Ron Browne: 2006-2007;
  • Alex Campbell: 2007-

Underfunding, chronic staff shortages, incessant complaints from patients, skyrocketing medical travel costs and plunging staff morale have plagued the health department since the creation of Nunavut.

At the same time, most front-line health staff have developed little confidence in their top bosses.

"The only one who really knew what he was doing was Dave Ramsden," said another GN employee, who spoke to Nunatsiaq News recently, also on a promise of anonymity.

Ramsden, a veteran civil servant from the Northwest Territories, ran Nunavut's health department on an interim basis for about six months last year, between the departure of Bernie Blais and the hiring of Ron Browne.

The most recent scandal to hit the department is their botched plan to hire nurses from India and the Philli­pines. That scheme cost the GN at least $3.5 million in direct and indirect costs, while less than half of those nurses are still employed by the territorial government.

In the last session of the legislative assembly, MLAs voted to ask Sheila Fraser, the Auditor General of Canada, to do a special audit of the Department of Health and Social Services.

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