One month later, GN has no timeline for elders’ return to Iqaluit

Residents of Iqaluit Elders Home were removed after COVID-19 outbreak erupted in Nunavut’s capital

The Iqaluit Elders Home is temporarily closed after six elders were transferred out of the facility May 8. (File photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

More than one month after six elders were transferred from the Iqaluit Elders Home, there is no timeline for their return, according to a spokesperson for Nunavut’s Department of Health.

On May 8, four elders were transferred to Embassy West in Ottawa and two were sent elsewhere in the territory. One of the in-territory transfers was home to family.

The reason, according to Health Minister Lorne Kusugak at the time, was to prevent COVID-19 exposure as cases of the disease began to spread through Iqaluit this spring.

On Monday, Kusugak told reporters the elders won’t return to Iqaluit until minor renovations at the centre are completed and the government finds new management to run it.

“We need to make sure the new management team is in place and their staff are fully trained,” he said. “While they are in a safe place, we decided, let’s get all this done right now.”

When asked if the elders could have stayed in Iqaluit during the transition period, Kusugak said “there’s no safe place for them to be here at this time,” and that their return is getting closer each day.

The government had no contract for an operator to manage the home at the time the elders were transferred, because its contract with Pairijiit Tigummiaqtikkut had run out five weeks prior.

Contract negotiations with a new operator are now underway.

“The Government of Nunavut is in discussions with a 100 per cent Inuit-owner company experienced in delivering exceptional and respectful high-quality care to elders,” wrote Health Department spokesperson Danarae Sommerville in an email to Nunatsiaq News.

Sommerville declined to name the company the department is in discussions with.

The number of elders who will eventually return is unknown, she said, depending on what type of care each one needs.

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(3) Comments:

  1. Posted by Northern mom on

    This is profoundly unfair to the Elders who were whisked away with little notice. And yes, there were places they could have gone to… many empty housing units that could have been a good stopgap. Staffing could have been modified, or family could have helped.

    Now you have to (1) renovate and (2) get a new contract with new people on the go to take over the facility. How long will that take? Will it be expedited? Even the simplest contract takes months, specially with GN bureaucracy and red tape. And staffing? That has always been a problem… it all depends on what level of care they need. Can they re-hire the previous staff who already know the Elders?

    This was 100% preventable. And now the Elders are languishing down South with no clear end in sight.

    For shame, GN.

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  2. Posted by Resign on

    Minister, don’t you think it’s time for you to resign?

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