Nunavut needs more spending on health infrastructure


We would like to congratulate Leona Aglukkaq and Health Canada on their cool-headed national response to the current swine flu situation.

Many of us were proud to hear of her appointment as federal health minister. Indeed, most accounts of the actions taken by Health Canada to this pandemic have been positive.

As Nunavut’s member of Parliament, Leona is in a privileged position to represent the needs and aspirations of her constituents.

Inuit in Nunavut and on-reserve First Nations have been disproportionately affected by swine flu. This should come as no surprise considering the common social conditions and severe lack of health care personnel and infrastructure in Inuit and First Nation communities across Canada.

Nunavut’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Isaac Sobol, disputed the World Health Organization’s expressed concern over the situation in Nunavut after 53 swine flu cases had been confirmed.

At the time we are writing this letter, that number stands at 145 and is expected to continue to rise. Considering the realities of housing in Nunavut, we find Dr. Sobol’s response curious.

Additional doctors and nurses have been deployed into affected Nunavut communities to help contain and mitigate the effects of swine flu.

However, this piece-meal response does not address the underlying limitations of Nunavut’s health care infrastructure. It’s no secret that access to health care for many Nunavummiut is comparable to some Third World countries around the world.

We recognize that Aglukkaq is responsible for the health care needs of all Canadians, but we hope that this outbreak will finally lead to significant and long-term federal investment in Nunavut’s health care infrastructure so Nunavummiut may one day enjoy the same health care services as our fellow Canadians to the south.

The time has come for Leona to use her position in cabinet to represent her constituents.

Jesse Tungilik
Robin Anawak
Tommy Akulukjuk

When this letter was prepared for publication, the number of people in Nunavut with confirmed cases of swine flu, nearly all of them mild, stood at around 200. The numbers rise on a more or less daily basis, but do not take into account swine flu patients whose bodily fluids are not tested in laboratories.)

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