Nunavut health minister defends choosing regional hubs for elder-care facilities

“We have to follow the experts’ guidelines”

Nunavut Health Minister George Hickes responds to questions in the territorial legislature on Sept. 21 about the government’s choice of sites for continuing-care facilities. (Photo by Dustin Patar)

By Jane George

Questions about the Government of Nunavut’s choice of Cambridge Bay over Kugluktuk for a new 24-bed continuing-care home surfaced in the territorial legislature on Monday afternoon.

“I was one of strongest proponents of going down that path to see if it was feasible to do a long-term care facility in Kugluktuk,” said Health Minister George Hickes in response to a question from Kugluktuk MLA Calvin Pedersen.

Pedersen told Hickes “the community of Kugluktuk had very high expectations that it would move forward.”

But Hickes said a 2018 consultants’ report had recommended the GN put new elder-care facilities in the regional hubs, Cambridge Bay, Rankin Inlet and Iqaluit.

“We have to follow the experts’ guidelines,” Hickes said.

As well, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the challenges in providing care to elders, in addition to the need for more health services available in the regional hubs, he said.

And there may have been other factors at play. Sources, who cannot be named because they do not have permission to speak to the media, told Nunatsiaq News that the soil at the proposed facility site in Kugluktuk was also contaminated.

But Hickes did not refer to this issue as having influenced the decision to opt for Cambridge Bay when he responded to Pedersen.

Kugluktuk hamlet officials learned of the decision last March, he said.

Hickes said it was “unfortunate” that residents in the western community of about 1,500 learned through the media only recently about the choice of Cambridge Bay over Kugluktuk.

That news circulated after a GN advertisement in a local newspaper quoted Hickes as saying the 24-bed continuing-care centre for Rankin Inlet would soon be in the consultation phase, and that “plans are also in motion for continuing care centres in Cambridge Bay and Iqaluit.”

Hickes told Pedersen options for training and employment would be shared with Kugluktuk as the project develops.

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(16) Comments:

  1. Posted by Starting to make sense on

    Ah, that might explain why the Kugluktuk resigned abruptly in April with no explanation if Hamlet officials knew what was going on in March. Would be interesting to know if she voluntarily resigned or if there was pressure from the community.
    .
    After a rocky two years in office, it was the first time the Kug MLA ever really stepped up and started a fight with a minister, but Pat Angnakak really stole the show and turned it into a bitter and confusing argument about Iqaluit… even though they were definitely going to eventually get the biggest facility in the territory.

  2. Posted by Fred on

    So is the Minister saying that the GN follows the recommendations of consultants over constituents? I thought that the consultants just make recommendations, not decisions! Who is controlling what happens in Nunavut? Seems pretty clear from the response, it’s not the MLA’s, it’s the consultants! How sad is that!

    • Posted by Josywales on

      You so right. Why are these MLAs elected if they cannot make their own sensible decisions? Whatever happened to Government by the people,for the people, liberty and justice for all? Are we truly dictated by consultants and never mind ordinary people?

      • Posted by Scapegoating is easy on

        That was a very weak answer by the Minister really. It comes off as something like “I refuse to take responsibility, so I defer to the experts” (in other words ‘consultants’). Don’t blame the consultants for their opinions, we are not dictated by them. The government makes its decisions based on what is expedient in its own eyes. This was really a way to deflect and avoid criticism, nothing else.

    • Posted by Constituain’ts on

      Have you been on facebook lately? The average constituent is an idiot.

  3. Posted by Why not Kug? on

    The north will grow stronger if everyone gets a little bit. Spread it around and all will improve.

  4. Posted by Disgruntled on

    It never made sense to put the facility in Kugluktuk anyways. Three of the other four communities can only reach Kugluktuk after two days of travelling, including an overnight stop in either Cambridge Bay or Yellowknife. Every community can reach Cambridge Bay within a few hours of flying. Cambridge Bay is also more appealing when attracting trained and skilled employees to work at the new facility, as it is a community with more services and more to do in general. Additionally, it’s got a local pharmacy and a more well-equipped health center than Kugluktuk does. Good choice by the GN.

    • Posted by Stephen Novak on

      If the GN continues to pass over Kitikmeot communities, other than Cambridge Bay, for development projects how do those communities ever progress?

  5. Posted by Arviat on

    This is what the Arviat MLA was asking several months ago about the elder’s facility in Rankin Inlet. He asked about the future of the elder’s centre in Arviat, no answer or explanation was given.
    I’m afraid Arviat will lose the elder’s centre in the near future.

  6. Posted by nadene mcmenemy on

    Lets get something straight here. The original site we had in Kugluktuk did not pass the soil testing. We then relocated to another site, tore down buildings to accomodate etc. so that is completely false in this story.
    Next if the consultants…told you this in 2018, why did you leave us hanging for a mere phone to find out in 2020?
    Oh I could go on but time will tell when it all comes out.

  7. Posted by Why not this!. on

    You people in higher jobs. You welcome homeless people in Iqaluit Capital of Baffin. I want to see Care Facility Center in Iqaluit. It will look a lot better for the city in a long run. I do not like to see the Capital of Baffin as a dumping ground from other towns. You built care center in Iqaluit. A lot of you were not born in the capital, so you do not care what comes to the city.

  8. Posted by GN faisl Kugluktuk on

    Top 5 (cynical) reasons for the GN to not choose Kugluktuk for the Kitikmeot long term care facility:
    5) The GN Caucus has no authority or representative role of the people – Consultants tell the GN what to do.
    4) Kugluktuk has one of the largest Inuit populations in the Kitikmeot region. Cambridge Bay has the fewest. Most southern transplants to Kitikmeot reside mostly in Cambridge Bay. Most southern transplants retire in the south and get long term care down south, if needed.
    3) Kugluktuk invested considerable political effort and money to prepare and lobby for this initiative. No other community in the region did.
    2) Kitikmeot Inuit Association supported the facility being located in Kugluktuk.
    1) Other larger non-hub communities like Arviat and Pond Inlet may organize and get their hopes up that the increasingly centralized GN government cares about decentralization.

  9. Posted by Paul Murphy on

    I would like to know who led Kugluktuk to believe, in the first place, that they could get a care facility.
    Unsolicited proposals are a dangerous route. You spend a lot of money assuming your proposal will be accepted and guess what?
    I am also surprised that the reasons for choosing Cambridge over Kugluktuk that are so obvious weren’t considered by the local proposers.
    There is a lot of blame here, locally, for this failure.
    Mr Hickes, you do have a choice not to accept a consultant’s recommendations, but I also recognize it would come back on you if something went astray.

  10. Posted by Uvaali on

    Maybe there was more to gain for the consultants for this decision. Next election I want a section (or better yet hang a consultants sign post) so I can help decide who makes decisions for my territory.

    • Posted by Scapegoating is easy on

      It’s a disgrace that the government would suggest this decision was made because they “had to follow the consultants”. This is total non-sense and a deflection so they don’t have to answer the hard questions as to why they chose to put these facilities in hubs only. Not to say this was a bad decision, it makes sense, but that the government itself can’t own this decision is a ridiculous.

  11. Posted by Stephen Novak on

    As a former resident and administrator for the Hamlet of Kugluktuk I was disappointed but not surprised that this was the GN’s decision. Back in 2010 the Hamlet’s finances were in dire shape and thanks to the Council of the day, a new SAO, and a new Finance Director, the financial outlook was reversed in short course. During that time the Hamlet increased it’s ownership in local buildings, built a new elder’s centre, a new visitor centre, a new community freezer, a new youth centre, a new public works building, and championed a rock blasting & crushing pilot project. All of these initiatives were community driven and were very successful. This community has shown themselves to be experts, it is too bad the GN can’t see this.

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