Nunavik woman raises safety concerns over transportation to Puvirnituq hospital
Christina Anowak says hospital offered van service previously, but switched to pickup truck
An Umiujaq woman is raising concerns over what she says is a lack of safe transportation to the Inuulitsivik Health Centre in Puvirnituq.
Christina Anowak, who said she is a frequent visitor to the centre, said the hospital initially provided van service for patients from other communities who fly in to Puvirnituq for health appointments.
But in the past two years, Anowak said, Inuulitsivik switched from picking up and dropping off patients at the airport in a van to using a pickup truck.
While she travels there regularly for checkups for lung infections due to her history of smoking, the lack of safe van access has her reconsidering her decision to seek care at the centre. She said she had to sit in the bed of the pickup truck, in bad weather and without a seatbelt.
“The way we have to be outside on the truck and how unhealthy it is — what if someone hits us and we’re behind on the truck and there are pregnant and elderly people?” she said.
Anowak was in Puvirnituq most recently on Nov. 8. In addition to being unsafe, she said, the current truck service is also unreliable because one pickup truck is responsible for taking all passengers travelling to the hospital.
That wasn’t the case two years ago when, she said, the centre employed multiple vans to transport Inuit seeking help at Inuulitsivik.
“There’s one pickup truck that we have to wait for going all over Puvirnituq,” Anowak said.
“It’s ridiculous how they’re saying that it’s still healthy for us to go travel there with no vehicle.”
Asked whether a pickup truck is being used to transport patients, Ariane Bedard, a communications officer for the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, said “the size of the fleet and types of vehicles may vary.”
She added that transportation for medical reasons is arranged by a liaison nurse and the cost is covered by the board.
In small communities, health centres like Inuulitsivik are often within walking distance of a user’s home and most users access the facilities by their own means.
“Land transportation service is available within a community to support (the health centre) or hospital users who require it,” Bedard said.
“The size of the fleet and the type of vehicles may vary depending on availability and challenges to operate and do vehicle maintenance in Nunavik.
“Therefore, the most suitable solution will be offered depending on the user’s needs and the resources available at the time of the request.”
For Anowak, the hospital currently providing only truck access for visitors like her remains problematic.
She said it is forcing her to reconsider what health problems she will travel to the centre for, and she may ultimately choose to delay appointments until next summer when weather conditions and the transportation service might be better.
“Most times, I cancel my trips. If it’s really something really serious and I have to go, then I’ll go,” Anowak said.
“If it’s only for an X-ray or something else, I won’t. I just won’t, knowing that they don’t have everything that Inuit need.”