Nunavut health minister defends choosing regional hubs for elder-care facilities
“We have to follow the experts’ guidelines”
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.