Embassy West’s compliance with regulations misses point: elders society exec
Open letter released last month says Inuit elders at Ottawa long-term care facility face cultural barriers
Embassy West Senior Living in Ottawa may be compliant with Ontario’s regulatory authority, but that fact doesn’t address concerns recently put forward by Iqaluit-based elders society Pairijiit Tigummiaqtikkut, says its executive director.
Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley’s organization penned an open letter last month to Nunavut Health Minister John Main, as well as all members of the territory’s legislative assembly.
It includes allegations that some staff members at Embassy West won’t say the names of Inuit elders because those names are “too difficult,” elders are not receiving country food sent to them, and psychological assessments are being done without proper interpretation.
Main announced earlier this week that the letter triggered an investigation of Embassy West by Ontario’s Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority. That investigation found no issues of non-compliance.
But in an interview Thursday, Qitsualik-Tinsley said the letter was not about compliance, but cultural barriers.
“It’s great the Ontario standards are met,” she said. “At the same time it doesn’t address any of the issues that were brought up in our letter.”
There is a basic need for Inuktitut communication, including between elders who live at Embassy West, she said. Other concerns include a lack of access to radio in Inuktitut and news about their home communities.
Main agrees that the territorial government is responsible for cultural-related elements of care for elders outside Nunavut, and says he is serious about addressing these complaints.
“We’re always looking for ways to improve,” he told Nunatsiaq News in an interview.
Main said he understands lack of access to radio can be a problem, and it’s an issue his department can look into.
He added the Nunavut government has tried to implement cultural programs for elders in Ottawa through organizations such as Tungasuvvingat Inuit, an Inuit-specific urban support service, but COVID-19 has hampered those efforts.
There are currently four Inuktitut translators working at Embassy West.
In 2015, the Nunavut government released a report on long-term care that described waitlists for beds at the time of 30 people, with a need for as many as 72 more beds by 2035. It also called for a strategy to develop a “co-ordinated approach” to senior issues within Nunavut.
That strategy has not been developed yet, and Main said he’s committed to seeing it done during his tenure. He didn’t provide an exact timeframe for this work, but did say it could take a year or more.
In the meantime, he pointed to a planned long-term care facility in Rankin Inlet that is scheduled to start accepting residents by 2024. As well, there are facilities planned for Cambridge Bay and Iqaluit.
But Qitsualik-Tinsley wants to see more. She wants elders across the territory to be able to live out their final years in their own communities.
“In the meantime, people are living and dying in conditions they don’t want to be living and dying under,” she said.