Hudson Bay clinics need province’s support, head of Nunavik nurses union says

Staffing, administrative issues causing lower quality service, burnout, says Cyril Gabreau

Nursing clinics on Nunavik’s Hudson coast, similar to the clinic pictured here in Salluit, are experiencing staffing shortages and administrative challenges. (Photo courtesy of Cyril Gabreau)

By Jeff Pelletier - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The head of Nunavik’s nurses union is calling for more support from the Quebec government to resolve staffing shortages and administrative issues clinics are facing along the region’s Hudson Bay coast.

Cyril Gabreau, president of the Hudson Bay Nurses and Healthcare Professionals Northern Union, said these issues are impacting the quality of service clinics are able to provide, while hard-working nurses feel burnt out by the demand.

Gabreau wrote an open letter to Ungava MNA Denis Lamothe and Quebec’s Health Minister Christian Dubé, asking the province to do more.

“It’s just a piling up from over a year of … different requests, and different solutions that we brought, and there’s no action, there’s nothing coming out,” Gabreau said. “It’s a big situation that’s going on on the Hudson coast right now.”

Marie-Claude Lacasse, a spokesperson for Dubé, said in an emailed statement the Health Department is trying to recruit more nurses by offering hiring and retention bonuses, and other benefits such as references and scholarships.

“We are very sensitive to the situation of lack of personnel, and recognize that the situation in Nunavik is critical,” she said.

“We are continuing our efforts to ensure that the population of Nunavik receives quality health care and social services.”

Catherine Gibeau, a member of Lamothe’s staff, said she received Gabreau’s letter and would get in touch with him and Dubé.

There are 145 registered nurses working along the Hudson coast, Gabreau said. Approximately 40 of them work “expanded” practices which allow them to perform tasks other nurses can’t, such as providing stitches and making certain diagnoses without the physical presence of a doctor.

Gabreau said the current number of “expanded” practice nurses needs to double to ensure the seven Hudson communities are adequately staffed.

“If we had those 40 nurses extra, the teams would be more fulfilled for the full coast … from Kuujjuaraapik to Salluit,” he said.

Something needs to be done in the immediate short term before communities face nursing crises, Gabreau said.

For example, Ivujivik had a nurse flown into the community on Monday, following a period of time without a nurse.

Gabreau said he’s open to solutions to ensure Nunavimmiut living on the Hudson coast are guaranteed access to quality health care.

“A lot of villages are really short of nurses, and it’s really critical and really concerning,” he said. “What’s going to happen when nurses are really at the end of the bottom?”

To prevent future staff shortages, a broader and sustainable long-term solution is needed, said Richard Budgell, a professor from the department of family medicine at McGill University.

Budgell, who is Inuk from Labrador, said the ideal nurse of the future for Inuit communities would be someone from the community who is given the opportunity to pursue that career at an early age.

Reaching that solution is a challenge, he said. Nunavimmiut students face barriers, such as school dropouts and mandatory relocation, which make it harder to achieve nursing training.

“That is a challenge I think we should be embracing collectively,” Budgell said.

“Having more Inuit in more health-care professions, roles, is part of the solution, so if you are from a community or region and working there, then your attachment to that community and role may be a bit stronger.”


Share This Story

(3) Comments:

  1. Posted by Hermes on

    “Nunavimmiut students face barriers, such as school dropouts and mandatory relocation.”

    To me it seems a ‘barrier’ is something that is either imposed, or is simply an obstacle on a pathway. To call ‘dropping out’ a barrier seems bizarre as the obstacle is self-imposed.

    Of course, it may be that students drop out because they are poorly prepared for school. The remedies for that are grounded in intangible things like attitudes, habits and cultural and personal values. The question then is why are we so afraid to talk about such things in terms of these intrinsic properties? Are we afraid to suggest that school is hard work and to be successful one needs to cultivate a particular skill set?

    Similarly, to say “forced relocation” is to make a distorted statement about one of the realities of education, sometimes we have to ‘temporarily relocate’ to access better schooling. I have done it, millions of students around the world have. Yet here we see it construed not only as a barrier, but the evocative language (tying it to literal forced relocation, not the voluntary one that it is) drops the subtle suggestion that there is an injustice at work.

    I am so tired of this incessant excuse making. Aren’t you? There is so much talk about the resilience of Inuit, yet repeatedly we see people treating Inuit as completely fragile and incapable of performing at the same level as other groups for imagined ‘barriers’ that, inexplicably, the rest of the world has somehow managed to overcome.

    • Posted by You said it well on

      That’s well said Hermes. I’m delighted that there are people out there aware of the reality of life among Inuit. Yes, we witness everyday how the blame game, supported by the so called educated analyst helps keep the status quo of uneducated Inuit justified, dued to barriers. Keep on blaming, and self deteriorate, while being told it’s ok, while the world evolves , and Inuit don’t. If only the same educated know it alls could have insight , sit together and plan the way to improve rather than justified destruction of Inuit future. Nunavik is no longer attractive to professional wanting to move there. It’s destroyed , not a healthy place , especially people moving there with kids. Nunavik is totally unhealthily depending on outside, and outside don’t like it anymore. People are sick and tired of babysitting.

      • Posted by Hermes on

        “Keep on blaming, and self deteriorate, while being told it’s ok, while the world evolves , and Inuit don’t.”

        Nicely said yourself.

Comments are closed.