Although regular MLAs in the 5th Legislative Assembly fought vigorously to make Elders facilities available in all Nunavut communities, there’s not yet any such plan for the 6th Legislative Assembly.

Health Minister John Main told his colleagues on March 14 that it may be possible to have that sort of strategy in place “during the life of this assembly.”

Main came under heavy questioning from former Health minister George Hickes, who pointed out that the previous Legislative Assembly was so displeased with the government’s regional approach that the members stalled the construction of continuing care centres in the regional hubs of Cambridge Bay and Iqaluit by up to two years. Only Rankin Inlet’s 24-bed facility has proceeded to the construction phase.

“In terms of what the long-term plan is, we currently don’t have long-term plan and recognize that is a gap, and we recognize that there are there is a lot of interest in that area of long-term care,” Main said. “It is a very important topic to many Nunavummiut and so currently when it comes to planning we are looking at filling in the gaps in our planning in terms of seeing what types of partners can be involved in this work, if any, as well as what the desires are from communities.”

The minister added that care for seniors, in a broader sense, involves input from other government departments and agencies, such as the Department of Family Services and the Nunavut Housing Corporation.

“And so with regards to deletions (of continuing care centre funding) that occurred in the previous assembly, I am not prepared to comment on that at this time,” said Main.

When Aivilik MLA Solomon Malliki asked similar questions about planning to put long-term care facilities in every Nunavut community instead of just regional hubs, Main replied, “we currently don’t have any plans for a project along those lines.”

Malliki said he agreed with Hickes in that an overarching seniors strategy should be developed before facilities are allocated, something Main called for several months ago as chair of the regular members’ caucus.

Main said, “That longer-term view needs to be taken of an issue that is this important, where we can’t be thinking four years at a time … I plan to look to the members of this committee in terms of the input, the ideas, and the direction that they would like to see as we take a longer-term view to long-term care and seniors’ care in Nunavut.”

Waiting list

There are currently 22 people on a waiting list for admittance to an Elders home or a continuing care centre, Main stated.

Raising the recent negative publicity surrounding the Embassy West care home in Ottawa, where numerous Nunavummiut seniors are residing, Hickes asked what would happen if the Government of Nunavut’s contract with Embassy West were to be cancelled in the near future.

Read more: Scathing call issued for better treatment of Elders

Main called the contract “very important” and referred to Embassy West as “a valued partner to our department.”

“It allows our department to provide the level of care for the Elders who need it and it’s a very valued service that Embassy West is providing to our department,” he said. “To the member’s question, I don’t know what would happen if that contract were to cease to exist. The effect on the seniors who are receiving care would be detrimental because we currently do not have the means to meet the level of care that they require in the territory. It could mean hospitalization of the Elders in question.”

Derek Neary

Derek Neary has been reporting on developments in the North for 18 years. When he's not writing for Nunavut News, he's working on Northern News Services' special publications such as Opportunities North,...

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