Ng fends off barrage of criticism on health care


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT ­ Health Minister Kelvin Ng continues to fend off criticism in the legislative assembly that there’s a breakdown in health care delivery across the NWT.

Kivallivik MLA Kevin O’Brien again confronted Ng with questions about health care delivery in his region. And O’Brien continues to press for a public inquiry into the Keewatin Regional Health Board’s activities.

During the past several weeks, nurses in the Keewatin have spoken out through a survey about the chronic shortage of staff in health centre and the impact that’s having on the delivery of health care.

“The last point of many that were registered (in the survey) is that the KRHB is a dysfunctional and terrifying organization which creates fear, panic and emotional fear in most of its employees,” O’Brien said of the general feeling of nurses in the region.

Of the total number of nursing positions in the Keewatin, about 40 per cent are vacant. The number of vacancies of social services workers also stands at an alarming 40 per cent, O’Brien told the assembly.

“To ensure that once corrected, it does not occur again, we need an independent public inquiry in order to accomplish this.”

O’Brien also pointed out that the nursing shortage has jeopardized the future of a mentorship program set up to help recent nursing graduates get training prior to pursuing their careers.

Ng said he’s sent staff from his Yellowknife office to help the Keewatin health board get back on its feet following the resignation of the chair and dismissal of its chief executive officer.

Percy Kabloona is currently sitting in as the interim chair of the KRHB, a job that should be filled permanently within the next four to six weeks.

“In respect to the issue of recruitment and retention of nursing staff, I committed to working with the NWT Registered Nurses’ Association, the NWT Health Care Association and with the department in trying to formulate a recruitment retention plan with some specific resources attached to it that the finance minister and myself could possibly put forward for our cabinet colleagues for consideration by February 15 at the latest,” Ng told the assembly.

He added negotiations will also re-open soon between the KRHB and the University of Manitoba’s northern medical unit.

Residents in the Mackenzie Delta are also complaining about the delivery of health care, MLA David Krutko told the health minister. And Krutko wants Ng to conduct a public inquiry into the system.

“I have been approached by the public from my communities in my riding over the Christmas holidays and they strongly suggest that a public inquiry be held on this important issue,” Krukto said.

“I think the concern that the region has is because there is such a large turnover of doctors and nurses,” Krutko said. “Every time they (patients) go there, they have to see a different doctor who gives them a different prescription or basically, they do not understand each other because of the cultural differences.”

Krutko added his constituents have also complained of being misdiagnosed or diagnosed late.

“In regard to the large cases of cancer that seem to be in the region, where people are told that they have ulcers or they have pneumonia and the next thing they know, they have full blown cancer.”

Ng said he isn’t aware of any “high profile or major problems” in the Mackenzie Delta and told Krutko he won’t conduct a public inquiry.

“I know that sometimes the results have not been to his (Krukto’s) satisfaction in respect to some of the funding initiatives that we cannot fund all programs or quite frankly that the board itself feels that it is doing the right job in putting the dollars where they feel are the most effective,” Ng said.

Baffin Central MLA Tommy Enuaraq told the minister that residents in Clyde River are also unhappy with health care delivery.

“A lot of times the nurses are working almost 24 hours a day,” he said. “The community of Clyde River had asked me if I could get one extra nursing position and also one extra interpreter position for Clyde River. I had written a letter to the minister of health and social services in this matter and the minister has not replied or responded.”

Ng said regional health boards, not his office, determine the number of staff within the communities.

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