New Keewatin patient home will open July 3 in Winnipeg

Lorne Kusugak promises more Inuktitut, country food and a direct toll-free number to his Rankin Inlet house if clients have problems.


IQALUIT — The new manager of the Inuit patient boarding service in Winnipeg wants to hold a contest to come up with a name for the home.

In the meantime, Lorne Kusugak said the Kivalliq Development Corporation will stick with the Kivalliq Inuit Centre and assures clients that no reduction in services is planned when their management team takes over July 1.

“There is nothing to fear. We are not bad guys. We are Inuit and we have families who are going there,” Kusugak said. “I know almost everyone in the region and they know who I am. We care.”

Kusugak said there are a few other changes in store, too, such as toll-free telephone calls from the Winnipeg patient centre to his own Rankin Inlet home, so that clients can address any concerns directly to him.

He’s also promising to stock a freezer with a good supply of country foods.

“But our biggest challenge will be to help the people be well taken care of, that their sickness is handled with respect, and that the staff provides them care with a smile,” Kusugak said.

The Keewatin Health Board awarded the patient service contract to Kusugak and his Yellowknife-based partner Tony Chang in April, ending a three-decade long relationship with Gloria Penner’s Ublivik Centre in Winnipeg.

Penner in the months since she lost the contract, has complained about apparent discrepancies in the way in which money earmarked for patient care was disbursed by the Government of the Northwest Territories.

According to Penner, the per diem rate for patient care was increased from 1992 to 1998, but her monthly payment was never increased.

Kusugak maintains his company won the tender, fair and square, because his company offered the best package to Inuit.

More Inuktitut

For one thing, Kusugak said that he plans to offer more care in Inuktitut.

“We’re going to try to bring in staff from Nunavut and hopefully they will be able to speak Inuktitut,” he said. “If possible, we’d like to staff it with 100 per cent Inuit.”

About 10 jobs are at stake, including positions for clerks, driver, cooks and housekeepers. Current employees have also been invited to apply for positions.

But there’s been some confusion, Kusugak admitted, over the fact that the initial job postings for the centre referred interested applicants to a “Nunavut Development Corporation” in Yellowknife.

This name, he explained, was the one he and Chang first chose and registered for their new joint venture, long before the Nunavut government opted to use it.

“We beat them to the gun,” said Kusugak. “But we are changing it now.”

The joint venture will be known as Kivalliq Development Corporation.

The centre’s official opening under new management is tentatively scheduled for July 3.

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