Baffin board says no to private money

The Baffin Regional Health and Social Services Board has rejected an offer from the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation to build and lease back a replacement hospital in Iqaluit.


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT Baffin residents could have a new hospital by 1999.

But the Baffin Regional Health and Social Services Board has rejected an offer from the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation to build one, citing fears about the privatization of health care.

Board members, who met earlier this week in Iqaluit, decided to rely on limited government funding and money raised through charitable donations to pay for a new regional hospital.

In a general discussion Monday, board members spoke hesitantly about an offer made by the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation, the business arm of the Qikiqtaani Inuit Association.

“We want to try it our way first,” Ann Hanson, the chair of the Baffin board, told QC president Jerry Ell. “But we appreciate your offer.”

Baffin’s Inuit birthright corporation was prepared to spend $25 million in combination with government funding to construct the hospital and lease it back to the board through a long-term agreement.

Ell said QC isn’t interested in becoming involved in the delivery of health care and said that under any agreement, health care delivery would remain the board’s responsibility.

Hanson repeated the same fears about privatization that she expressed at last July’s Baffin leaders’ meeting in Pangnirtung.

“If we start privatizing, this could jeopardize the entire health care system,” she said.

Ell said Hanson’s reaction both surprised and disappointed him because at a meeting last month she agreed to recommend QC’s plan to her board.

At that August meeting, which NWT finance Minister John Todd also attended, both Ell and Hanson heard that the GNWT doesn’t have the money to directly fund the construction of a new hospital.

The GNWT has, however, earmarked about $47 million in capital funding for several new NWT hospitals. The Baffin region would get part of that money.

“It’s always been earmarked, but it’s been deferred,” Ell said of the $47 million.

He warned the board that funding will be slow in coming and would ultimately delay construction of a new hospital.

Thanks, but no

But no amount of convincing could allay fears that having QC build the hospital would be the first step towards a private health-care system for Baffin residents.

“I can’t see to go any other way at this time,” Hanson said.

“I’m sorry that QC and the Baffin regional health board won’t be working together to get this hospital built,” Ell replied. “I’m sorry we’re not going to see a hospital sooner.”

QC has been trying to work out a deal with the health board for about a year. The corporation got involved after hearing that a private company might be contracted by the territorial government to construct a new Baffin hospital.

Ell said QC’s offer may be short-lived.

“Our offer is on the table because of the political climate right now,” Ell said. “The Nunavut members are willing to fight for this (government funding). But it might not be there by the winter.”

According to a QC timeline presented to the board Monday, Ell said constuction could have begun on the new hospital next July and been completed in 1999. Under the board’s timeline, Hanson says Baffin residents can expect a new hospital by 2000.

Will GNWT money dry up?

In the 1988 agreement that transferred responsibility for health care from Ottawa to Yellowknife, the federal government agreed to set aside money for replacement hospitals in Iqaluit and Inuvik.

Since then, the GNWT, with the help of a sweeping report done by the Med-Emerg consulting firm, has divided that money up so that part of it will also be used to build new hospitals in Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay.

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