Elders society loses Iqaluit boarding home contract

Nova Group takes charge of building, 50 to 55 workers lose jobs

On Thursday, Jan. 10, the elders society in Iqaluit received notice that it would no longer be managing the boarding home it had been sub-contracted to oversee for the last 22 years. (Photo by Beth Brown)

By Courtney Edgar

The Nova Group has ended its contract with the Pairijait Tigumivik elders society to manage the Tammaativvik medical boarding home in Iqaluit, as of last Thursday morning.

Nova has a contract with the Government of Nunavut to run the building, and had been sub-contracting management of the boarding home to Pairijait Tigumivik.

About 50 to 55 people employees of the society will lose their jobs, said Anne Crawford, the society’s lawyer and acting executive director. As of Friday, she said three workers were still packing up the society’s belongings.

The society had agreed to keep its kitchen staff working to provide food for the patients for the time being, since Nova had no kitchen workers, she said.

Loss of about $5 million in payroll

Crawford said the contract termination results in the loss of the one of the largest Inuktitut-speaking work forces in Iqaluit, and the loss of about $5 million in payroll for the community.

The elder’s society is a not-for-profit group with a volunteer board. It has been involved in running the Tammaativvik boarding home for 22 years, dating to when it operated out of a smaller building located beside Inuksuk High School.

Nova completed construction of the current Tammaativvik building in 2010, and has been operating it for the GN since that time.

Crawford said news of the contract termination came in a letter from Nova during a morning meeting on Jan. 10 with lawyers representing Nova Group.

The letter was dated Jan. 4, but not delivered until Jan. 10, the deadline the letter gave for the society to evacuate the building, Crawford said.

Security guards and cleaning people were already cleaning out the boarding home building on Thursday, Crawford said.

The Nova Group was not immediately available for comment.

But Crawford said she believes it’s the GN that is responsible for the decision.

“The GN needs to look at what their goals are. I believe they made that decision and those people will be long gone while we’ll still be feeling the impact,” Crawford said.

Complaints and disturbances

The termination of the contract comes after a year of growing concern about disturbances and security problems at the patient home, and complaints from MLAs about the quality of food, the physical state of the building and a lack of cleanliness.

This past April, the body of a 22-year-old woman from Clyde River, who died in a homicide, was found inside a room at Tammaativvik.

The woman’s 31-year-old domestic partner was found dead in another part of town. It’s not clear if the man was staying at the home, but security camera footage showed him leaving the woman’s room.

Last year, the home began using two security guards 24 hours a day, rather than just one, including a guard at the front door at all times.

“Without a doubt there have been challenges for everybody working in social services in the last year,” Crawford said.

Patient home underfunded?

Still, Crawford says these are issues that are faced all over Nunavut.

“This is not a unique situation,” Crawford said.

The boarding home has received feedback and responded, said Crawford. They had hired a security guard and were doing the best they could with the resources provided, she said.

Crawford said that during Thursday’s meeting no clear explanation was given for the contract termination.

But she also suggested the boarding home is underfunded, saying the building has capacity for 90 beds, but the government funds them for up to 70 beds, and the home is often over-capacity.

“They guarantee us 70 beds and then send us 150.… we have asked for more space. If you strangle an organization, refuse it the resources it should have, then say they’re not giving the service you want, you’re not looking at yourself.”

The boarding home had, under the management of the elder’s society, one of the highest Inuit and Inuktitut-speaking percentages of employees in Iqaluit, Crawford said.

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(12) Comments:

  1. Posted by Encouraging on

    Fantastic news!!! That boarding home has needed new management for to long. Hopefully the Nova will turn things around. I heard lots of old staff are still working there not out of work. Lots of old staff need training on how to take care of people not be rude and lazy. Hope they get trained!!!!!!

  2. Posted by Seen It Before on

    Nunavut is supposed to be an open society with an open, public government.

    But the practice is just the opposite. Everything is done in secret.

    The most important thing to those who rule Nunavut is that there be no negative comment. Everything about Nunavut must be positive.

    There are people who know why this happened. But they are too afraid to say anything.

    When will the fear end?

  3. Posted by Iqallumiuq on

    Finally. The boarding home is been in a downward spiral for years. Drunks distrubing other patients, domestic disputes, dirty rooms and poor customer service. At least someone at the top had enough balls to pull the plug. The society has no one else to name but themselves. That girl wouldn’t have died if they enforced rules

  4. Posted by bnuts on

    i miss the old Nunatsiaq news layout.

  5. Posted by Seen what? on

    #2 what are you talking about? Government is not required to share everything with the public. “there are people who know why this happened. but they are too afraid to say anything.” Why do think something is hidden? A contractor severed ties with a sub-contractor. No big story here. I think we all know why this happened. The boarding home was run by incompetent, untrained and unfriendly people. The manager hid in his office, people slept on the floor, rooms were dirty, food is sub-par at best, staff are rude – this was a looooooong time coming. There should be no surprise as to why this happened. Good on nova for taking over. It needed to happen.

  6. Posted by plight on

    nunavut was sold out for money and power to a few it will be felt for decades as province south of here takes what it wants mentally and jobs and nunavut

  7. Posted by Stewie on

    To the commenters here that feel this building management group is the entity best suited to reform the apparently squalid Boarding Home, let me remind you that they may be the folks that ran the Navigator (“Drunks distrubing (sic) other patients (customers?), domestic disputes, dirty rooms and poor customer service.”). The restaurant furniture was literally held together with duct tape and the carpets were so filthy that even self respecting rats wouldn’t dine there. That building was demolition worthy for years and they accumulated as many, if not more, over-serving penalties as any other bar/resto here.
    They had a representative living in an apartment at the boarding home and eating daily in the dining room. Why didn’t he ever notice any glaring deficiencies in 22 years?

    • Posted by Nova group? on

      Stewie, that is an excellent point. Why exactly, was this company chosen? And why is this service being contracted out to look after vulnerable people?

      • Posted by Stewie on

        That’s a great question but, unfortunately, beyond my pay grade. All I know is that there were apparently N.G. lawyers present confiscating employees laptops. Hardly what I would describe as a situation likely to entice the current employees to stay with the new management team. One would think a GN Health or Community and Gov Services spokesperson might have showed up to show some support for the 50 plus local folks thrown out in the street since this is public money and all that mundane stuff we’re talking about. Lay 50 ppl off and let the Feds cover them for the next 49 weeks with EI?

  8. Posted by Former health insider on

    The Nova company was chosen because when the time came to build a new and bigger boarding home about ten or twelve years ago, the Government of Nunavut put out a request for proposals. Nova came in with the lowest bid so they won the competition fair and square.

    Nova is primarily a construction company and the GN did not contract Nova to operate the boarding home service, they contracted Nova to construct the building and then lease it back. Pairijait Tigumivik was contracted to operate the home through Nova, but it looks as if that didn’t work out.

    Pairijait had run things at the old boarding home, which was the former high school residence beside the Inuksuk High School, so they just kept doing the same thingin the new building, but operating under Nova instead of GN.

    Anyway I guess they just got overwhelmed. Based on all the complaints and serious incidents it’s understandable why the contract was pulled.I hope Nova or whoever manages to hire back some of the former employees. A lot of them are probably okay and deserve a chance to work, but the safety and wellbeing of the patients has to come first.

    • Posted by tiny on

      Maybe it’s time the government actually assessed the businesses they award contracts to instead of just picking the lowest. Higher bids are sometimes higher forma very good reason. you get what you pay for.

      • Posted by Caroline Wah-shee-Anawak on

        As someone who worked there for two years, I had to lobby NOVA over and over again to get things fixed, get them to supply much-needed items and never once did they do it easily or seem to understand the necessity.
        The cleaning staff worked very hard there, so it is not at all true the rooms were dirty.
        When I arrived everything from the stove to the washers and dryers were broken. It was a long journey to get them repaired.
        I fear that NOVA still has the Contract with Health.

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