Kivalliq Inuit Association wants Ottawa to stop KRHB

The Kivalliq Inuit Association says the Keewatin Regional Health Board acted illegally when it decided to offer it’s physicans’ services in the Keewatin.

By JIM BELL

IQALUIT The Kivalliq Inuit Association says that the Keewatin Regional Health Board does not have the legal authority to offer physican’s services in the Keeewatin region.

And they also say that NWT Health Minister Kelvin Ng does not have the legal authority to delegate that function to the KRHB.

KIA President Paul Kaludjak made those accusations during a press conference Oct. 20, in which he demanded that Ng resign from his cabinet post.

The KIA has also released the contents of a letter that Kaludjak has written to federal Health Minister Allan Rock and to Indian Affairs Minister Jane Stewart, in which he says that the KRHB’s recent actions have “left the Inuit of the Kivalliq region in the Northwest Territories in a potentially dangerous position.”

Nunavut Tunngavik President Jose Kusugak also signed the letter, which is accompanied by a lengthy legal opinion provided to the KIA by Ottawa lawyer Dugald Brown.

“It is our opinion that the recent actions of the Government of the Northwest Territories, via the Keewatin Regional Health Board (KRHB), have caused the people of the Keewatin to lose access to adequate, reliable medical care,” the letter says.

One temporary doctor for whole Keewatin

In a statement to reporters on Monday, Kaludjak said the health care situation in the Keewatin has deteriorated to the point where it’s no longer a political issue.

“I am a politician and I have been for some time,” Kaludjak said. “It’s very rare in a politician’s career to be called upon to get involved in something where politics is not the issue. This is one of those times.”

He said that Dugald Brown’s legal opinion of the KRHB’s actions “came as a complete surprise to us.”

That opinion states that, under the Territorial Hospital Insurance Services Act, the KRHB’s management authority extends only to the Iglualuk centre in Churchill and the Ublivik patient home in Winnipeg.

“It follows from this that the statutory powers of the KRHB do not include the provision of comprehensive medical and physician services to residents of the Keewatin,” Brown said in his opinion.

Brown went on to say that it’s clear that the GNWT and the NWT minister of health are responsible for providing insured physician’s services in the NWT.

KRHB hiring own doctors

Since September 30, the KRHB has been trying to hire it’s own doctors to replace those who used to provide health care in the Keewatin through the University of Manitoba’s northern medical unit.

They even hired Med-Emerg consulting to recruit doctors to work in the Keewatin for salaries ranging above $200,000 a year.

But so far, they’ve been able to attract only one temporary physician who is now working in Rankin Inlet.

As for the other seven communities that the KRHB is responsible for including the Baffin community of Sanikiluaq there are no apparent physicans’ services.

The KRHB terminated its medical services contract last summer, prompting a long, loud controversy that led to demands for a public inquiry into the KRHB’s activities, and demands for the resignation of KRHB chair Elizabeth Palfrey.

Kaludjak blames Ng and the GNWT for the situation as much as he blames the KRHB.

“The KRHB has made decisions because they were told that they could,” Kaludjak said.

Violation of Canada Health Act?

Now that Keewatin residents have limited access to health care, the GNWT may now be violating the access provisions in the Canada Health Act, the KIA says.

“In order to remain entitled to receive federal funding under the Canada Health Act, the GNWT is obliged to provide both hospital services and physican services on the basis which satisfies the criterion of accessibility set out in the Canada Health Act,” their legal opinion says.

And Kaludjak said the KIA and others in the Keewatin now expect Ottawa whose money flows through the GNWT into the coffers of the KRHB to intercede on their behalf.

“It appears that the KRHB did not have the legal authority to attempt to repatriate the delivery of medical serices from the NMU,” Kaludjak said.

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