Instead of flying Kivalliq residents almost 1,500 km to Winnipeg for many medical appointments, Manitoba’s NDP leader is proposing that Churchill serve more of the Kivalliq’s health needs.
Last week, Wab Kinew urged Ottawa and the Manitoba government to make the Town of Churchill a health hub for northern Manitoba and the Kivalliq region. Kinew said the Churchill Health Centre, less than 500 km from Rankin Inlet, meets the requirements to be a regional facility due to its staffed emergency room and operating room as well as the world-class airport that serves the town of 900 people.
While some Kivalliq residents are already directed to Churchill for medical procedures, such as oral surgery, Kinew argues that number can grow.
John Main, MLA for Arviat North-Whale Cove, is interested in the potential.
“Anytime that anyone is talking about healthcare and the North, I think it’s a conversation that’s worthwhile,” Main said. “The concept of Churchill as a healthcare hub is a very interesting one.”
Main described healthcare needs in Arviat and Whale Cove as “staggering.”
“The healthcare statistics are not that rosy. There’s a lot of room for improvement,” he said, noting that he doesn’t fault the existing, hard-working healthcare staff. “I just believe we need further investment into healthcare in Nunavut.”
Among the issues to be addressed are the need for proper screening programs to detect illnesses such as cancer, the ability to deliver babies closer to home – as opposed to Winnipeg – and specialized care for elders in the Kivalliq, said Main.
He did, however, credit the Government of Nunavut for gradually increasing capacity at the Rankin Inlet health centre over the years.
“That has meant that people can access some services closer to home than they used to,” said Main. “That said, the facility in Churchill is an excellent one… whether that can be expanded and whether it would be cost effective and hopefully complementary to what the (Nunavut) health department is doing in these regional centres, that would remain to be seen. So the idea, I think, is one that should be seriously looked at.”
Nunavut News approached the Department of Health for comment on Kinew’s proposal but none was provided prior to press deadline.
Outside of salaries, medical travel consumes the most funds for the Department of Health. In 2016-17, the department booked 32,000 medical trips and spent close to $74 million on all medical travel.