Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavik December 05, 2017 - 10:00 am

Intoxication, violence, missed appointments plague Nunavik’s medical travel system

“If this doesn’t improve, the escort policy won’t be available any more"

Nunavik health officials say they track hundreds of incidents from medical patients and their escorts staying at Montreal's Ullivik centre, from intoxication to violence and missed appointments. To prevent some of that, the NRBHSS says it is considering hiring Montreal-based patient navigators, to eliminate the need to escorts. (FILE PHOTO)
Nunavik health officials say they track hundreds of incidents from medical patients and their escorts staying at Montreal's Ullivik centre, from intoxication to violence and missed appointments. To prevent some of that, the NRBHSS says it is considering hiring Montreal-based patient navigators, to eliminate the need to escorts. (FILE PHOTO)

KUUJJUAQ—Nunavik health officials are looking to revamp the region’s patient escort policy to cut back on the high costs and risky misbehaviour of hundreds of medical patients and their escorts while visiting Montreal.

Though Nunavik has two small hospitals, one on each coast, Nunavimmiut typically travel to Montreal for specialized health care services. Patients who require help with travel or translation can bring an escort, whose role is to accompany the patient to their appointments.

But statistics gathered on Nunavimmiut on medical travel since December 2016 show an alarming number of incidents, including intoxication and drug possession, violence, missed departures and even deaths reported among patients and escorts staying at Ullivik.

In 2016-17, 5,127 Nunavimmiut patients and 2,602 escorts travelled to medical appointments in Montreal, most of them to the new 143-bed Ullivik centre, which opened its doors in the city’s Dorval neighbourhood last December.

Since December 2016, event reports at Ullivik show there were 656 incidents of intoxication among escorts and 744 incidents among patients. There were an additional 127 reports of drug and alcohol possession at the centre over that same period.

“We have some rules for patients at Ullivik—no drugs and alcohol are allowed,” Ullivik’s director Maggie Putulik told Kativik Regional Government meetings last week.

“It’s not a place for threatening other patients,” she said. “Sometimes it becomes very complicated and the police have to intervene.”

Ullivik even has a sobering-up room, where intoxicated residents must stay for a time until they can return to their room.

The event report also noted 22 incidents of violence and sexual aggression among both patients and escorts, 138 behaviour issues and 143 cases of negligence, which includes parents or caregivers leaving children at the centre when they went out.

Since last year, 40 patients staying at Ullivik have missed medical appointments.

Putulik said the centre received a letter last summer from a surgeon at the McGill University Health Centre saying the doctor no longer wanted to operate on Inuit patients because of the number of patients who had missed scheduled surgeries.

Putulik said the centre has since smoothed over tensions with the hospital, though the incidents showed a troubling level of disrespect among patients and a misunderstanding of wait times within Quebec’s health care system.

Most alarming of all, two escorts have died while they were registered to stay at Ullivik over the last year.

But just this past fall, a 36-year-old woman from Puvirnituq escorting a relative to Montreal died in the parking lot of a restaurant just blocks from Ullivik after she was struck by a truck.

Montreal police investigated the woman’s death but concluded there was no criminal element.

Time for change

Already this year, 382 Nunavik escorts have been blocked from ever escorting a medical patient again.

But health officials in Nunavik say it’s time to revisit its medical policy to prevent more issues.

“If this doesn’t improve, the escort policy won’t be available any more—simple as that,” Putulik said.  “It’s very costly.”

Minnie Grey, executive director of Nunavik’s health board, estimates that it costs about $20 million a year just for airfares for both medical patients and their escorts to travel from Nunavik to Montreal.

That’s not to mention the costs associated with the hundreds of incidents that Ullivik has tracked, she said.

“So we are looking at other possibilities,” Grey said. “Instead of having escorts from the North, we could have assistants on the ground.”

Grey said the health board is considering hiring “patient navigators”—Montreal-based staff, both Inuit and non-Inuit, who could accompany medical patients who require help with transport and communication.

The health board is still lobbying for a regional hospital that could accommodate more specialized medical services in the region, to avoid having to fly thousands of Nunavimmiut south every year.

Nunavimmiut have already outgrown Ullivik’s 143 beds. The health board spent about $1.3 million this past year to rent nearby hotel rooms to accommodate all of the region’s medical patients.

This graph shows the number of problems and glitches associated with patient escorts at the Ullivik patient boarding home in Dorval, broken down by the Hudson Bay and Ungava health regions.
This graph shows the number of problems and glitches associated with patient escorts at the Ullivik patient boarding home in Dorval, broken down by the Hudson Bay and Ungava health regions.
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(37) Comments:

#1. Posted by i follow rules on December 05, 2017

Shame !!!  so all these idiots go after maggie putulik through Facebook ?

#2. Posted by money well spent? on December 05, 2017

Taxpayers fund this insanity.

#3. Posted by Embarrassed on December 05, 2017

All these people are ruining it for everyone who want to be well/cured of their ailments, do people have no shame anymore? Get you $#!t together, you’re going for MEDICAL reasons, not your own personal drug and booze run…idiots

#4. Posted by Carrier on December 05, 2017

we might or could save a lot of money if we could hire a full time Nunavik escorts to travel fly in and out throughout the year. Create job(s) to the willing. Dump the unreliable escorts. compare costs now and start hiring now. Ppl need job(s).

#5. Posted by Gaina Angiyou on December 05, 2017

I really need escort because I come there every month I have a health problem

#6. Posted by Ashamed to be Inuk on December 05, 2017

Nunavik Local Nursing should hire people for escort and let them sign papers, if escort decide to drink while he/she still in south with patient, they could take them to court. it could create job for Nunavimiut. Nunavik is over populated with no jobs!

#7. Posted by Santi Kalassie on December 05, 2017

Awful and real data.  Who can argue now? 

We knew this was going on and now we got numbers to look at. Even people who can speak passible English and are able to speak for themselves get escorts.  On top of translators already working the Montreal end.

#8. Posted by free ride on December 05, 2017

Many, if not most escorts, are an abuse of the system. Just a free vacation to get drunk, get high or go shopping. Stop the free ride.

Instead, like #6 said, hire dedicated, capable personnel who can take care of patients while travelling and save millions of taxpayer money. Same goes for Nunavut.

#9. Posted by Medical on December 05, 2017

WOW , 300 people.

#10. Posted by Please people on December 05, 2017

I hate to say this but because of those whom have cause bad reports this will be the beginning of declining of our health CARE from nunavik. Those people who make bad reports should be charge and pay for their stupid actions. There will be price to pay even for people who never cause any trouble.  Make criminal laws now for people who makes trouble while going on medical trips.

#11. Posted by comadoofwarrior on December 05, 2017

Well, this immoral behavior a sign that there are way too many suppressed and built up urges i.e. Freuds Pressure Cooker or boiler model. Folks up there need better(affordable) ways to “knock off the steam”. Community Halls, Arenas, gymnasiums, libraries do not seem to be enough in that case(i.e where they exist).

That being said, what other avenue would exist for 80% of Nunavimiut to ever travel outside their territory?

#12. Posted by Anonymous on December 05, 2017

#2 taxpayers money LOL do you know how much the government
takes out of our land from taxes. Much more then we get back.

#13. Posted by No name on December 05, 2017

Stop spending money on escorts and start saving money so that nunavik can get a hospital and the patients don’t have to travel from home to mtl .

#14. Posted by Hey Anonymous on December 05, 2017

Out with it , blame the white man for our behavior

#15. Posted by NN Daily Reader... on December 05, 2017

They should do the Same to Nunavut and Ontario, It’s bad timing to be having escorts here, No room for Inuit who are here for Medical like they closed the Arctic Hotel, Patients having to stay at Hospital cause there is lack of Space, To some who don’t need escorts do Have one so many Nunavumiut are complaining to find places to stay… Health Minister accepted Escort’s to spend Money on Flight’s then Housing should of thought of if there is spot to put them to have their Medical needs…

#16. Posted by Thinker on December 05, 2017

Well, where’s all this coming from ? These drug users and drunks need to stop all this immature stuff and start acting like adults. On the other hand, these immature drunks and users are the children of parents who were beaten, humiliated, molested, and raped by principals, teachers and even preachers. Their parents were sent away, their dogs slaughtered and lost a lot of lands. Think of this, and start thinking of ways to start a healing process for the people who need it instead of belittling them. The bad incidents that are recorded is something else, so I hope they are keeping record of the good deeds people have done as well. I’m not ashamed of the Inuit and never will be because I understand why they get like this, many people with different races all do this kind of beahviour it all comes to one thing, their hurting inside. So try to be more understanding. I hope the mayors and councillors of each community speak to their followers and try to be better role models.

#17. Posted by Bob Smith on December 05, 2017

#12, you’re clearly misinformed.  Look at the cost of running 14 diesel generators, 14 airports, 14 nursing stations, 16 schools, 2 hospitals, 14 police stations, etc. 

Nunavik is a net beneficiary of Canadian and Quebec tax payers by many orders of magnitude.  Your supposition is absolutely the silliest idea I’ve heard in a while!

#18. Posted by Generalized on December 05, 2017

The surgeon is generalizing Inuit! That’s unacceptable! Those who missed their appointments should be penalized! Not us!

2017, going on 2018. Still no escort services. The problem doesn’t only come from the party animals.

#19. Posted by CB on December 05, 2017

None of this would happen if Canada treated its true Northerners with respect. History is now playing itself out in dysfunction and the disrespect continues for as long as we do not have proper healthcare services at home.

#20. Posted by Northerner on December 05, 2017

Separate from Canada I vote yes.

#21. Posted by True Remark on December 05, 2017

Generalized person is making a true remark.  A professional medical person should not refuse services based on ethnicity.  These are vowed professionals and their vows are to help all who need help. 

Local CLSCs also know the escorts who have given poor substandard service but the patients also insist on someone they personal trust.  Then they get betrayed.  Patients sometimes do not seem to care for their own health.  Some of them take big risks of over drinking even on the day of their appointment. 

None of this would be happening if people treated themselves with TRUE care and respect.

#22. Posted by Just a question on December 05, 2017

What are the options for activities at Ullivik in the evening?

#23. Posted by Michael Kasudluak on December 05, 2017

Here is something to think about, since the patients go there for hospital appointments, if they cause trouble due to being drunk, after their appointments are finished that they should be told that they will to pay their own way back including hotel since they would have leave Uulivik when their appointments are done, maybe that can open their minds to be respectful due to their conditions

#24. Posted by Anonymous on December 05, 2017

1. Create professional escort positions.
Have applicants vetted. Criminal records check, etc.
Have them on rotation like remote workers.
Hire them from the north.
They stay with the patient from, to, then back.
New patients; same process, until rotation is over.
Have them housed like how southerners are in the north.
Give them benefits like how southerners are in the north.
Give them personal trips like southerners get from their northern employers.
2. Offer reimbursment at an approved rate to patients who have the means to accomodate themselves and transport themselves; provided that they’ve gone to all their appointments.
3. No tolerance in full effect, for intoxication.
Have serious family briefings before leaving community.

#25. Posted by Arpiapik on December 05, 2017

So every 3 to 4 times per year my son needs to have his appointments and is expected to be seen through out his childhood and as his mother this terrifies me!GENERALIZED, like were all one kind but we are not. So some stranger Inuk or not will be escorting my son? What about bed time?, I escort him since the day he was born to every appointment and YES I put him to bed knowing he is safe with me. I am angry and scared because of other peoples behavior numbers do not lie!

#26. Posted by i follow rules on December 05, 2017

#14 your saying inuit have no will power to resist alcohol, so blaming the whites will solve the problem ?, i am 100% inuk and i know how to follow rules and i dont blame anyone. i will be at ullivik in march to escort my elderly mother and i respect her wishes not to consume alcohol.  peace out you idiot.

#27. Posted by Uqittuk Mark on December 06, 2017

It is about time to talk about Nunavik/Nunavut General Hospital now. One that caters to the needs of all Eastern Arctic. Winners all around. No more boroughs complaining and no more readily available alcohol and drugs. Problem solved.

#28. Posted by Shameless on December 06, 2017

This is shameful, but the culprits are shameless. Since there are so many committees in nunavik, why not start another one to address this issue of abuse. As anyone can see, this is hurting good people. I’m asking everyone to take a stand against this, and have zero tolerance to it. How unsafe it is for inuit to be in Montreal, under such a bad image. Yes unsafe, even be denied medical services. These causing the trouble, are not even aware that this discussion is taking place about them. Let’s stop them once and for all. No more, escorts from the north, is the best way to stop it. And to the abusive patients who drink and miss their appointments, they must be sent back home. Harsh treatment is needed to deal with it. Sadly. It’s the new culture of abuse that we see here.

#29. Posted by Hospital on December 06, 2017

#27, yes, I agree with one big hospital, but it must have the largest mental health ward in the country. People are mentally sick, beyond any cure. Everything we’re reading here is about mental illness. For anyone to look at the stats, and not see the deportable state of mental illness, then maybe they too are too sick to see it.

#30. Posted by Steve56 on December 06, 2017

Former resident of the North.  If there is one thing I learned in life is that people DO NOT CHANGE (North or South) : TIMES change, POLICIES change, GOVERNMENTS change.

It’s time to stop asking for people to change because they will not.  We have to adjust policies in order to prevent abuse.  That is the ONLY solution.


#31. Posted by Prohibition on December 06, 2017

Prohibition of alcohol is to blame. And it doesn’t work.
Those from towns where no booze is allowed, binge drink when they go south and miss appointments.

#32. Posted by Drink if you can on December 06, 2017

#31 comment. Why no booze allowed in the first place? Are you telling me people have no control what so ever, and therefore binge drink, and cause all those serious problems? You sure shine a not so bright light on people. Ok,  let the escorts, and the patients drink all they want before going down. Let it be a prerequisite right from the medical plan. And another thing, people like you are always speaking from someone controlling you, like using words like allowed. No, you are not allowed. You will never be allowed , because you can’t handle it period.

#33. Posted by Bothering others on December 07, 2017

These behaviours, enhanced and worsen by alcohol and drugs are all about bothering other people. The drunks of Nunavik, whether in nunavik, Montreal , or ten buck two, bothering family or neighbors are a rite of passage it seems. No matter what kind of abuse you had done to you, you do not have any right to bother other people. You get people trying to make excuses for this terrible uncivilized behaviour, but there is no excuse. I was abused, and I know many other that were too. I don’t go around bothering others, and being drunk and neglecting, and I know many others that don’t do that too. Look at drunk driving in nunavik, and look at all these down south in jail, from being pull over on many occasions. They are people that have a few drinks , then get in the car to go bother others.

#34. Posted by Activities in the evening on December 07, 2017

#22 commentor. My answer to you. Guessing games. That seems like the only thing that works in nunavik. Guessing games. Try guessing how many drunks are missing their appointments. How many escorts are being killed or injured. People love playing guessing games. Non educational guessing games. Even kids are starting to be lead into these little games, and after all it is a kids games, played in overtime in nunavik by too many adults.

#35. Posted by Steve56 on December 10, 2017

#31, #32 and #33, read comment #30 : over and over and over again, and over again and when done, read it over again.

#36. Posted by Good read on December 11, 2017

Comment #35 puts the blame on lack of policies. Wrong. If society was to be shaped by policies, we would be brainless. Since man started to breath, man put policies on everything. Rules are made, only to be broken, and imposing more rules, keeps the status quo. People do what they want to do. It’s about the survival of the fittest. Many, and perhaps most people don’t need laws. They behave just because they are smart, and have the heart to love their neighbors. But I can see where, some people depend on government and policies, as the government attempts to look after those that fail to behave well.

#37. Posted by The real danger on December 11, 2017

There’s a deep sadness in this beyond what we see on the surface. It’s not just about missing appointments and intoxicated while in Montreal. In our home land this is an every day occurrence now. We don’t produce when we let ourself be overcome with drinking and drugging. And the real saddnes is that as inuit we will be taken over by the influx of people taking over the jobs and housing, and our culture will be crushed. If we are too intoxicated to take care of our children, need I say more to what we see today, our kids are in the care of outsiders. In our largest community, the population of inuit are now completing with the population of new, different culture people, making a good home , with good jobs and good housing. This is all the consequences of our bad choices. Need we wake up. Sleep no more.

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