Plan would have saved no lives at Kangiqusalujjuaq


I am writing in my capacity as the head of the department of medicine at the Ungava Tulattavik Health Centre in response to the comments attributed to Mr. Patrice Guyard in an article that appeared in the Nunatsiaq News on May 7, 1999.

The avalanche that tore through the Sattumavik School in Kangiqsualujjuaq on January 1 had many painful lessons to teach with regard to emergency preparedness in Nunavik. Mr. Guyard carries on at length about how he believes these lessons should be applied. Although many of us at Tulattavik think that several of his specific recommendations are born of a debilitating naivete regarding the realities of the north, one of his remarks left me wondering just how carefully he was listening to the information presented at the coroner’s inquest.

Mr. Guyard was reported to have said that “…more lives might have been saved and much suffering avoided on January 1 if emergency plans had been in place to help health workers react.”

This kind of absurd sensationalism serves no other purpose except perhaps to prey on the minds of the people of Kangiqsualujjuaq. If this incident had occurred at the base of Mount Royal in the heart of Montreal, it is highly unlikely that the medical outcomes would have been substantially different.

No emergency plan, not even one designed by Mr. Guyard himself, would have saved a single life in Kangiqsualujjuaq on January 1. To pretend otherwise does a disservice both to the people of Kangiqsualujjuaq and to the health care workers, all of whom did outstanding work in an extremely difficult situation.

There is much room for improvement in our handling of major emergencies in Nunavik. The development and implementation of a new plan to cope with disasters promises to make Nunavik a safer place to live in the future.

Carl Bromwich, M.D.

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