Patient residences bursting at the seams

“We work things out somehow”


Nunavik’s two overcrowded patient residences in Montreal are ready to burst as expectant women from the region’s Ungava Bay communities wait out the last days of their pregnancy in the city.

Last weekend, this meant there was no place for Nunavimmiut who turned up at the Northern Module, which looks after the Nunavik’s patient services in Montreal, either as unexpected arrivals from the North or patients discharged from hospitals.

“We were full,” said Louise Marchand, a long-time employee with Northern Module and before that, with Nunavut’s Montreal-based Baffin House. “We work things out somehow.”

But there’s a cost to patients, escorts and the cash-strapped health board.

Overflow patients and escorts usually end up being housed at great expense at the Travelodge hotel in Dorval, private boarding homes or downtown apartment hotels — when they’re available. Having patients scattered all over the island of Montreal obliges Northern Module drivers to wrestle with heavy traffic every day and means patients sometimes miss their appointments.

The total cost to the health board for extra hotel rooms is staggering. In 2006, the amount is sure to top $285,000, the additional cost to Nunavik’s regional board of health and social services three years ago.

The most recent exodus of pregnant women from Nunavik is the result of a lack of permanent, qualified physicians in Kuujjuaq, which means the Tulattavik Hospital can, once again, no longer handle deliveries.

This has resulted in up to 180 Nunavimmiut being in Montreal every week for hospitalization, outpatient treatment or consultations. The numbers of people coming to Montreal for health care have swelled since 1998 to more than 3,000 a year.

However, overcrowding at the patient residences isn’t a new condition: the 50-person Nunavik House at 6177 St. Jacques St. has been bursting at the seams ever since it opened in 2000, and the new Hampton House nearby, for 28 residents and escorts, has also been operating at full tilt since it opened last year.

So, some may wonder why Nunavik’s health board doesn’t dust off its plan to establish a Dorval-based facility to house the patients, escorts and offices for the Northern Module under one roof.

Considerable money, time and energy were all expended on this plan, which, says a health board employee who wishes to remain nameless, was suddenly shelved and forgotten: “as if it never existed.”

Two years ago, a committee was given the mandate to find a new, more cost-efficient location for the Northern Module and patient residences.

The committee’s progress was outlined in a June 2004, French-language document prepared by a consultant, which was called “MNQ — locaux de l’organisation, situation actuelle et future” (The Northern Module: the organization’s location, its current situation and the future.”)

The document notes that during 2004 the increase in patient numbers from Nunavik in Montreal increased by 11.4 per cent over the previous year and up to 40 patients were regularly housed in hotels.

“This state of affairs presents many inconveniences and dangers to the health and security of beneficiaries,” the document says.

The committee charged with finding a better location for the Northern Module and patient residences located a building in Dorval for rent, which had three floors and a cafeteria, but would have required $3 million in renovations.

The committee recommended pursuing the purchase of Foyer Dorval, a large residence in the centre of Dorval. There were even plans drawn up for its renovation.

Meanwhile, the committee suggested asking NEWCO, the company that still rents the Northern Module and patient residence to the board, for a two-year renewal of the leasing options and with a one-year option. This places the next renewal of the leases for three buildings rented by NEWCO to 2008.

Since the committee report, traffic to health care facilities in Montreal has only increased. The 2004 Qanuippitaa health survey in Nunavik sent many to Montreal referrals for further medical examination. The shortage of specialists in the region’s two hospitals is also contributing to the increase.

Meanwhile, patients and escorts who have stayed at Nunavik House or Hampton House say they don’t much care for the neighbourhood surrounding the two residences.

The location was chosen originally for its proximity to McGill University’s future mega-hospital, which still hasn’t been started yet.
The neighbourhood features seedy hotels and a bar across the street that has reportedly been taken over by Hell’s Angels as well as a local corner store that police say was running a brisk business selling drugs to Nunavimmiut before it was busted last spring.

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