Iqaluit isolation hub for medical travellers under consideration

Chief public health officer addresses premier’s self-isolation plan at cabin

George Hickes, Nunavut’s health and finance minister, told reporters Monday that the GN is considering a temporary isolation hub in Iqaluit for medical travellers, but the government has not made a final decision. (File photo)

By Emma Tranter

A temporary isolation hub is being considered in Iqaluit to help with a backlog of medical travellers in Winnipeg, Finance Minister George Hickes said at a news conference today.

In Winnipeg, the wait for medical travellers to get into the isolation hub is up to three weeks, Hickes said.

Hickes said he wanted to clear up what he called “misinformation” about a hub opening in Iqaluit.

There was speculation on social media over the weekend that the Iqaluit hub was “a done deal” and people were arriving tomorrow from Winnipeg, Hickes said.

“That’s not the case,” Hickes said. “We understand the concerns raised on social media over the weekend. However, nothing has been confirmed about an Iqaluit or an additional Winnipeg hub at this time.”

“We recognize the fear that comes with COVID-19, but we need to balance that fear with facts.”

The GN is also looking at the possibility of creating a second hub in Winnipeg specifically for medical travellers, Hickes said.

Dr. Michael Patterson, the territory’s chief public health officer, said the GN has been exploring the idea of a hub in Iqaluit as a one-time, short term plan to help alleviate the backlog of medical travellers in Winnipeg.

Hickes also advised Nunavummiut again not to travel unless it’s essential.

“This isn’t a punishment. This is to help keep Nunavummiut safe.… It’s not easy, I fully acknowledge that. But it’s a responsibility we all have, to help keep our populations, to help keep our families safe. I know I for one would not want to be responsible for getting someone I love sick,” Hickes said.

GN contracts Qikiqtaaluk Corp. to run isolation hubs

The Qikiqtaaluk Corp. has been contracted to run the Government of Nunavut’s isolation hubs, Hickes said.

Finance Minister George Hickes estimated the Government of Nunavut will pay the Inuit-owned Iqaluit corporation about $230,000 a month to operate the isolation hubs.

Hickes said running the isolation hubs has taken resources away from the GN, especially in the departments of Health and Community and Government Services.

QC will be responsible for general oversight of the hubs, including working in the hubs themselves, helping to provide access to services like mental health and coordinating with GN health staff.

Hickes also addressed concerns that Inuit are being treated differently in isolation hubs than non-Inuit. Through QC, more Inuit will be employed to work on and in the hubs, he said.

“Having more Inuit involved in the process, having people on the ground at the hubs that are Inuit and bilingual will be optimal,” Hickes said.

Hickes also noted the $18.9 million for Nunavut announced by the federal government last week for economic relief, but said further details on how and when the money will be distributed is yet to come.

Hickes also said that alcohol abuse has “probably been the most challenging aspect of the isolation hubs.” It has caused some people to have to restart their isolation period, he said.

Counselling for addictions and mental health support are available at the hubs, he said.

“Like with any addiction or behavioural issue, people have to ask for help.… As far as access to alcohol, we have very little control over that,” Hickes said.

As of last week, the GN has spent $15 million on the isolation hubs, Hickes said.

Premier had self-isolation plan approved by the GN

Officials also addressed the premier’s actions involving his 14-day self-isolation at his cabin outside Arviat.

CBC Nunavut reported on Sunday that Premier Joe Savikataaq had travelled to Winnipeg to retrieve his private plane and then self-isolated at his cabin outside Arviat rather than in a hotel. This was done with the approval of the chief public health officer’s office.

Savikataaq defended his actions in a statement posted on Facebook Sunday.

Patterson said Savikataaq’s case was treated the same way his department treats other private pilots flying into the territory.

Patterson said even if the GN made pilots isolate in the hubs, they could potentially stop at other places along the way. The safest way is to have them isolate as soon as they arrive in Nunavut, Patterson said.

Patterson said around two dozen pilots have had self-isolation plans approved in Nunavut.

In one case, someone had travelled from Greenland and arranged to isolate in Nunavut.

“Making that individual go all the way to Ottawa, isolate for 14 days and then come all the way back made no sense and increased the risk to that individual without furthering the protection of Nunavummiut,” Patterson said.

Patterson said he didn’t know exactly how many Nunavummiut have had self-isolation plans approved.

There are also plans in place for fisheries’ crews to apply for exemptions and isolate in Nunavut upon their return from Greenland, Patterson said.

The premier is still in Arviat and is expected back this week.

Patterson also said the GN is still awaiting the results of the COVID-19 tests sent south for two workers who tested positive at the Mary River mine.

Also starting today, bars and restaurants are permitted to open regular hours.

The final plan for the reopening of Nunavut schools is also expected to be released later this week. The plan was expected to be released today, but technical difficulties prevented the GN from meeting with local district education authorities last week.

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(26) Comments:

  1. Posted by Frustrated on

    If I cancelled my entire summer to “do the right thing” and it comes up here anyway … what a waste that will have been.

  2. Posted by Kurt on

    Really, the premier gets special treatment? What sort of leadership is this?

  3. Posted by UNGAVA on

    I am starting to suffer from Covid fatigue. everyday , its covid this covid that , miss the good old days , when global warming was the only bogeyman.

  4. Posted by wait on

    So lets get this straight… If a big game hunter or an outfitter wants to get tourists on a float plane up to a camp or a segregated lake somewhere and have no interaction with a community they can start doing this without isolating?
    Yeah lets open up the tourism sector again and as long as you aren’t interacting with a community you can come into Nunavut…
    This seems like a bit of a double standard. sorta.

    • Posted by use your brain and read the rules on

      nunavut residence can go into nunavut. non residence can not unless they are essential. are the sport hunters from nunavut?

  5. Posted by Can we put plans in place to self isolate in cabins on

    As the premier has set a new cost effective way to self isolate, can the government establish procedures to allow Nunavumiut to self isolate instead of enriching hotel companies in the south.

  6. Posted by B Aglukark on

    Only some will truly understand the challenges and the stress of being away from loved ones let alone isolated in a hotel for a long period of time. A few can fully grasp what that is like, and they are real. For some, the pressure of a single parent or spouses separated from each other or from their children, elderly without appropriate escorts. No money to cover for supplies. The list can go on and on. It truly can be a very long difficult 2 week period.

    But, if you put all of those feelings and pressures on the “scale” and weigh it with the possibility of the virus entering the territory.

    I’d say, the current method is the safest.

    Putting a hub in the territory increases the chances of the virus entering the territory much higher. Higher then the current method even with all of the loop holes in place. What are those loop holes? Essential workers medical teams, RCMP bypass the need for quarantine, am I correct? Then, you have the mine workers who enter the territory without a quarantine period. And of course the Premier by himself isolating at his camp.

    We have heard many stories of drunk people, and some who aren’t drunk just walking away from these hubs carelessly. I could picture a hand full of individuals drunkenly (or not) sneaking out and running around in Iqaluit before the two week period. Unless the GN basically makes the hub a jail type atmosphere, we will hear of folks sneaking out.

    Put that chance of a possibility on that opposite end of the scale what do you have?

    The current system is safest. Maybe make some minor adjustments, were feasible separate the medical travellers from vacationers, maybe charge a percentage of the vacationers for their quarantine period. Regardless, this may still be a cheaper, but a safer approach. I could also imagine the cost of a hub in Iqaluit. It’ll be ridiculous. Don’t make Iqaluit a hub. Keep that 2 week iso in the southern locations. No need to fix what is not broken, well maybe with some minor adjustments.

    • Posted by Paul Murphy on

      B Aglukark, I think out of all the commentators here, you are the only one who listened to the daily report of the Minister and the CPHO Dr. Patterson yesterday. And you are bang on. Iqaluit is NOT the place for a hub. Once we do that, it’s game over. As well, and since the isolation hubs were set up anyone who went out on vacation should be charged the full amount of the costs of their isolation in a hub of the CPHO choice.

  7. Posted by GEela on

    He’s our Premier and plane or no plane he should have been one with his Inuit and isolated just like everyone else. That would have showed him to be Inumarik.

    • Posted by Artie on

      I agree with you. When u r the ‘supposed’ leader of an organization u lead by example. Don’t ask your people/team to do something that u wdn’t do yourself. Clearly the premier does not subscribe to that moto. A sorry-azz display of leadership?

    • Posted by Fixed It For You on

      Don’t you mean with “his Nunavummiut”?

      There, fixed that for you.

      He needs to be more than merely Inumarik, he needs to appeal to ALL Nunavummiut, not just one ethnic group.

      That being said, the criticism about double-standards is fair.

  8. Posted by Why u dum on

    Was his travel necessary? He went south to pick up supplies. The avoided a 2 week backlog in Winnipeg. Then avoided work for 2 weeks by self isolating in his beloved Kivalliq! Remember it was a month ago when he said h3 felt overworked, and wanted to see his cabin! Mike Hickes please tell us…was his travel necessary?

  9. Posted by Premier’s Nephew on

    Of course we need an isolation hub in Iqaluit.
    QIA just spent millions to build a hotel in Iqaluit, and no one is using it. So the GN should hire QC to run an isolation hub in the QIA hotel, pre-fabricated in China to avoid most of the high construction costs in Nunavut, and give them the revenue they were expecting.
    Since we have the facility available, use it as a temporary treatment facility. You know, that thing that is desperately needed by Nunavummiut, in Nunavut.
    Do it now!

  10. Posted by Northern Guy on

    The Premier is just the most recent example of the double standard being applied by the Dept. of Health. Important people and essential workers (many of whom are health employees who AREN’T residents of Nunavut) continue to be given a free pass while regular Nunavummiut continue to be punished and denied the rights afforded to every other Canadian citizen, namely to self-isolate in one’s home.

  11. Posted by Ken on

    This is a terrible consideration, Churchill Manitoba would make more sense for the Kivalliq travellers, also kicking out the drunks that keep breaking the rules and starting over for isolation would help, they would consider following the rules after that.
    Keep the virus out of Nunavut, this is a bigger risk to take and we can’t afford that.

  12. Posted by Lost in isolation on

    Ok…here goes! Let’s put things into perspective. I’m currently serving my Isolation…

    Yes, I applaud the GN’s efforts to keep everyone safe and they are doing a bang up job! But there are still many “crinkles” that need to be ironed out. It’s time that our leaders listen to our voices…and start getting public input, cause in’s us doing the isolation …not you.

    Premier Joe, great, glad you got to serve your time at your cabin…that fine print must have been in the magic pen ink where the rest of us couldn’t see it? Wish I was as privileged as you…comes with the title I guess…maybe the expense claim to go along with it too? (For those who didn’t clue into that)…it’s possible. Apparently I forgot to write my pilots test and purchase that plane while waiting for a room since the beginning of July. Damnit! Kudos, you done what we didn’t think of. ?

    As I sit here writing this, I want all to know, that I’m here on medical travel. There was ZERO communication between me, medical travel and the isolation team. I was coming here, into a situation, totally lost. I took it upon myself, the day of my last appointment, to start the “leg-work” of isolation…figured, heck I don’t want be here longer than necessary, so proceeded ahead. Called, left voicemail /emailed medical travel…no reply except from a nurse saying someone will be in touch with me. So I printed the isolation paperwork, filled it out and sent it off via email..whoohoo, great, step one is done ✅

    Got a response back from the request form I filled out saying that it’s handled by the medical team and they’d be coordinating the isolation. Ok…great. In the meantime, I had been getting my stay extended at the non-isolation hotel, but had to get the “ok” from the powers- to-be. Was graciously given a phone number at KIS, spoke with a lady who said they’d extend it and that I’d be transferred in the days to come and that I would be expecting a call as to what time to check in…yada, yada. Ok, my next phase was going to occur. Happy dance.

    I did not receive that call…I knew the day I was told, but no call. The day prior to isolation transfer I called the hotel MYSELF, to get the details of my stay (yup, I was booked in)…still feeling “LOST IN ISOLATION”, I didn’t know where these nurses were? Were they coming to me before I go to isolation? Said, f’it, grabbed the bull by the horns and departed for the isolation hotel. Maybe the medical team is inundated with other things, who knows ?‍♀️, but still it’s THEIR JOB.

    So, to finish off with this long @ss rant, if it weren’t for the many mistakes that others have done during isolation (not abiding by the rules as outlined and signed by the person) and creating a backlog for others waiting to get home and broken communication…I would have postponed my appointments and risked waiting another 6 months ?‍♀️ to figure out what’s going on with my health. But why? Why should one risk their own health because people can’t get their §hit together?

    Summer is coming to an end for the teachers very, very soon…so what’s going to happen to medical travellers? Will they be bumped? Forced to wait for weeks on end?

    Put the pen to paper, listen to your people, it’s our opinions/suggestions on how to make it easier moving forward.

    • Posted by Wendle on

      Sadly, your rant is consistent with a couple of friends who experienced medical travel recently.

  13. Posted by Curious on

    As people have been isolating for a few months. Has any of those in hotel isolation ever been diagnosed with covid 19?

    As I have not heard of Nunavut residents coming back to our territory with the virus, I am not going to freak out over it. From what I understand there are quite a few “essential workers” who come without isolating.

    Give people an option to isolate in cabins during these nice summer months.

  14. Posted by Rory Pudlat on

    Nice….a float plane, your own cabin. Float planes run a cool $250 USD or more. Meanwhile these guys are talking about income and food security. Somewhat obscene.

    • Posted by Nevada Bob on

      um…Joe has owned his own float plane for well over a decade now. He was financially responsible and wow, owns his own home too. Imagine that!

    • Posted by Consistency on

      Your right I very much doubt Joe S has personal felt food insecurity for quite a while. he has had job paying jobs with Government for a long time. also he has had a plane for something like 15 years. so though i do feel he should have gone through the isolation hotel for solidarity the fact he has a plane is not a reason to put him down.
      Also having a cabin requires collecting wood from the dump (if you are not rich enough or want to buy the wood) and building yourself a cabin. every community get lots of creates on sea-lift and it may take a few years of work collecting, puling nails and moving the wood to the place to build but even in the large communities with competition for the wood you can do it.

  15. Posted by tax payer on

    I get the lets put money back into Nunavut. Lets have isolation here in Iqaluit and make jobs for locals blah blah blah.
    So right now, if you break isolation in a hub, you are forced to start over.
    What is going to happen when people break isolation in Nunavut. How about human rights and all that other legal stuff. What is the GN/RCMP going to do when someone fights their way out of an isolation hub???? possibly infecting security, hotel staff and RCMP with the virus to those who respond to this.
    Better to leave the hubs south and refuse people a letter to get on the plane.

  16. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    Having isolation hubs in the south is a good idea, having isolation hubs in Iqaluit (or Rankin Inlet, or anywhere in the Kitikmeot) is a bad idea. Why?
    If someone is positive they are interacting with people in the community, be it a server, health professional, law enforcement. They can also just walk away from the isolation hotel and into the community. You can’t lock them in, or if you try to, they will still find a way to get out (or were you never a teenager?)
    If they do this in Ottawa, fine. Back into isolation for another 14 days if you decide that you want to travel again. If this happens in Iqaluit it’s too late.
    Also take a look at what’s happening in the south. Cases went down to the 200s in early July, just when provinces decided to reopen businesses, and we had Canada Day, and hot weather perfect for getting people out to the beach and parks. Cases two weeks later are back up to 400s, and now 500s the next few days.
    Anyone want to bet that they stay at 400 to 500 a day, or even increase? Despite what people know we as a society are incredibly careless, and even reckless. Too many people think that it won’t happen to them, then surprise!
    Our governments need to get serious, especially in the south (looking at you Ontario, Quebec, Alberta). Mandatory mask laws for all public spaces. Close bars and dine in restaurants, basically until we get a vaccine. Otherwise Covid-19 cases will continue to go up. We have to be super careful or this will get away from us. Just look at the idiots south of the border!

  17. Posted by S. S. Murphy on

    Oh Boy! As much as I want to like and respect Joe, I am becoming more and more disappointed. I am not alone here. Voters are becoming increasingly frustrated with politicians who say one thing and do another. Regardless of the topic be it the pandemic, racism, careless spending, metoo movement, ethical issues, you name it and people are taking things to social media. It seems that is the only way for issues to get traction. I had once viewed our Premier as a grab the bull by the hornes, modern leader but increasingly see and hear of situations being covered up, slow decisions making, increasing excuses being made, etc, etc, etc.
    Say what you will about some of the past Premiers, they all had their faults but I do miss the days where action was taken promptly right or wrong. We have been watching for months as the issolation hubs continue to struggle with backlog and other issues. I want to see our leader infront of the issues not dragging their feet behind the latest leaked scandle. I am sure he had full intentions of keeping his trip quiet. It makes me wonder what other things are going on behind the scenes that we do not know about. If it is being done with a nudge and an agreement for it to be hush hush, then it is best he come out before the media gets wind of it.

    This is not about him having a plane. Good for him his success. This is about him covering up questionable behavior and taking no action on a situation that is worsening by the day.

    • Posted by Why u dum on

      Well said

  18. Posted by George on

    Did our GN try to pull a fast one with using Iqaluit as a hub for isolating?

    Once people started finding out and having concerns on social media the GN finally came out to say the are considering Iqaluit without consulting the people of Iqaluit.

    The way this government functions need to change. More accountability and clarity is needed.

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