Keewatin patients fear the worst


Nunatsiaq News

RANKIN INLET – Two days before her due date, Naanasee Onalik was told the baby she had planned to give birth to in her home community would have to be born in Yellowknife.

She was given four hours to pack and get to the airport for a late afternoon flight.

“It was a total surprise,” said the first-time mom, who described her pregnancy as problem-free. “From day one I expected to have him here.”

Conditions jeopardize patients

On Dec 9, the day of Onalik’s check-up, the midwife with whom Onalik had built a nine-month relationship closed the community birthing centre because she refused to continue working in conditions she felt jeopardized her patients.

“I was mad at first,” Onalik said. “Then she started to explain that if there was an emergency, there was not enough staff.”

The community health centre has been operating on an emergency only basis for several weeks.

Two other pregnant women were sent to Yellowknife at the same time.

“It would have meant a lot to have my baby here,” said Onalik, who gave birth to her son, Jacob, on Dec 11. “I would have had people around me for moral support.”

Instead, Onalik paid to have her boyfriend fly to Yellowknife with her. The other two women went alone.

Emergency or not?

Another Rankin Inlet monther said she was anxious about having to diagnosis – deciding whether the severe headaches her 14-year-old daughter had been suffering were urgent enough to see a nurse.

“I was wondering if it was an emergency and at the same time I didn’t want to overburden the nurses,” she said. “It’s a fine line, but they say early detection is the key.”

She finally decided to seek medical attention.

“If I lived in Iqaluit or Yellowknife, I think I’d have no problem getting an appointment. We’re in Canada and it just seems like we don’t have the same access for our basic health needs.”

Hamlet councillor Lavinia Brown, like most Rankin Inlet residents, doesn’t blame the nurses.

“It’s not their fault,” Brown told Health Minster Kelvin Ng during an emergency meeting last Friday. “The system has failed us.”

She told the story of one of many worried residents who’ve been phoning her.

“[A woman] had phoned the health centre, but because they are short of nurses she could not been seen and she was told it was for emergencies only,” Brown said. “She said that maybe she’d be all right, but she didn’t know how she was going to make it through the night.”

Alarm about sick children

Brown, a former chair of the Keewatin Regional Health Board, said the situation is more alarming with children.

“With children you don’t always know because they don’t tell you. They’re not like adults. They can’t express (themselves) like we can.”

NWT Finance Minister John Todd, who represents Rankin Inlet in the legislative assembly, said he’ll work with the health minister to find a solution to the crisis.

“If there’s a crisis, we need to sit down and pragmatically work out what the action plan is,” he said during the meeting.

“I will take some responsibility of the failure of the system to respond in a manner you expected it to. I hope others will do the same.”>>

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