Baffin health board says yes to QC construction deal

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

ANNETTE BOURGEOIS
Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT After months of public pressure, the Baffin health board has accepted Qikiqtaaluk Corporation’s offer to help finance a new hospital.

The Baffin Regional Health and Social Services Board passed a motion Wednesday morning in Iqaluit giving the go-ahead to the Inuit birthright corporation to pursue a financing deal.

“We have basically accepted the QC offer,” said board chair Dennis Patterson. “That gives the board’s approval to proceed with the next step with QC.”

Last August, in a letter to health minister Kelvin Ng, former board chair Ann Hanson and QC president Jerry Ell agreed to 11 points in relation to financing, including QC’s offer to pick up any shortfall in capital funds for the planning and construction of a regional hospital.

That agreement was quashed when the board, at a meeting in Iqaluit in September, rejected QC’s offer. In the weeks following that meeting, Baffin residents criticized the decision and called for the board to pursue a deal with the corporation.

Patterson said the board discussed QC’s offer again and approved 10 of those 11 points in a formal motion Wednesday. Board members chose not to accept the point that would involve the new hospital foundation raising funds for the capital project.

“We don’t want to get the establishment of a foundation mixed up with the capital financing,” Patterson said. “A foundation can do many things, including raise money for capital. We just don’t want it to get mixed up with the QC financing offer.”

Patterson said board members were satisfied that the corporation would not be involved in health care delivery, a concern many expressed at the September meeting. That position was outlined in the motion.

“They expressed their satisfaction that that was clear in the points,” Patterson said.

Jerry Ell expected to meet with the health board on Wednesday, but instead met privately with Patterson. Either way, the board’s decision was news he wanted to hear.

“We’re no longer waiting in the wings,” Ell said. “It means we can continue proceeding along trying to secure the financing and trying to come to a formal agreement with the health board in terms of how a lease would be structured.”

The exact cost of a new hospital hasn’t been confirmed, but GNWT Minister of Finance John Todd has already made it clear that the government can’t afford more than $25 million.

“We’re still limited by what the government can afford and what is possible without affecting the on-going programs and services provided by the health board,” Ell said. “Right now, that’s the number we have from the government, saying that’s all they can provide over the long term is a $25 million facility.”

Because the exact dollar amount coming from the GWNT is unknown, Ell said QC’s plan is to fund 100 per cent of the capital costs up front. He added some of those costs will be recaptured from the government and foundation during the construction phase. The remaining costs will be paid back on a long-term lease.

Financing will be the topic of discussion at a meeting of Nunavut health board chairs, regional Inuit birthright development corporation presidents and the GWNT minister of finance to be held later this month in Rankin Inlet.

The board has also hired a consulting firm to develop a strategic plan for the project. From that report, due December15, a functional review will take place to determine the size and cost of a new hospital.

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