Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Iqaluit December 03, 2012 - 4:23 pm

Iqaluit public health moves to building near airport

“It’s not in the boonies exactly and it’s not ideal maybe”

SAMANTHA DAWSON
Building 155 in Iqaluit, which for decades served as a community public health centre, still lies empty and unused Nov. 30 after closing this past June for an environmental remediation that was expected to take only four months. Now, the Government of Nunavut has decided Iqaluit residents won’t be getting public health services at this building anymore. Instead, the Iqaluit Public Health and Family Practice will move to building 1091, located near the creek on the airport road. Public health services will close Dec. 6 and Dec. 7 to prepare for the move. (FILE PHOTO)
Building 155 in Iqaluit, which for decades served as a community public health centre, still lies empty and unused Nov. 30 after closing this past June for an environmental remediation that was expected to take only four months. Now, the Government of Nunavut has decided Iqaluit residents won’t be getting public health services at this building anymore. Instead, the Iqaluit Public Health and Family Practice will move to building 1091, located near the creek on the airport road. Public health services will close Dec. 6 and Dec. 7 to prepare for the move. (FILE PHOTO)

Get ready to take a long, brisk walk or a taxi.

Starting Dec. 6, Iqaluit public health services will be shut down until Dec. 10, when Iqaluit public health will resume services at a new long term location: building 1091 on the Airport Road.

The move applies to tuberculosis programs, flu shots, well baby clinics, pre- and post-natal care, the infectious disease program and family practice clinics.

However, people who need to pick up medication will still be able to do that at the Qikiqtani General Hospital location during the move, said Monte Kehler, director of support services for the hospital, during a Dec. 3 news conference in Iqaluit.

Administering public services in the upper level of the QGH was a temporary fix while the old public health location, building 155 downtown, was closed for remediation this past June to get rid of toxic asbestos.

That new and improved building was to reopen this past November.

But that didn’t happen because more problems — not described — were found with the building.

“I think as soon as they started investigating a bit more, they realized the scope of the work was going to be more significant then they had originally anticipated,” Kehler said.

“There’s been a delay on the renovation of building 155, so the public health building is not going to be ready for us to move back in, and at this point in time I’m not sure when that will be.”

However, the health department “had to make a plan.”

Rather than delay the major hospital renovation, the Government of Nunavut decided to change move things around.

This meant that instead of putting the hospital administration into building 1091, they decided to turn this location into the public health unit.

Over the past few months, the space has been getting prepped for use by public health workers.

That includes setting up “functional spaces,” such as exam rooms.

“So that’s public health and family practice, which is essentially like Iqaluit’s community health centre,” Kehler said. “What we’ve been trying to do is minimize any kind of disruption to the public.”

The GN’s lease for the old public health building, building 155, doesn’t expire until March 2014. 

“When they are finished we might find another purpose for the building, but at this point we’re guessing it’s not going to be until they bring more supplies up on the boat,” Kehler said.

So, until another option is available, public health services will remain at its new location near the airport. 

Kehler said he recognizes that the new location is not as convenient as the old one.

“It’s not in the boonies exactly and it’s not ideal maybe, but there really hasn’t been a lot of space available to us in another part of town. It was our best option at the time,” he said.

“If there was another building that would have been available downtown, then we would have probably considered that as well,” he added.

Darlene McPherson, executive director of Iqaluit health services, said program delivery is the most important part of the entire renovation and moving process.

Building 1091 near the airport was the best option for keeping public health services together and offering them in one location, she said.

“It really wouldn’t work to have TB in one area, well baby clinic in another. That program needs to stay together.”

Kehler also provided updates on the planned renovation to the old side of the old hospital building, scheduled to get underway this coming January.

“Essentially what we’ve done is shut down half of the hospital, moved everybody around in town and the only interruptions in services should be the two days it takes to move the clinic into the new centre,” he said.

The renovations to the old hospital, built in 1962, should be finished by April 2014.

The building is structurally sound, but mechanical and electrical upgrades are badly needed, Kehler said.

“We wouldn’t be able to run a lot of our electronic health record system with the current telecommunications system that’s in the old part,” he said. 

The hospital renovation project is estimated to cost $32.3 million.

So far the work is keeping within that budget, Kehler said.

The upgrade to the old hospital will include: 22 exam rooms (up from 12), two procedure rooms, a better dining area, multi-purpose rooms where nurses or midwives can work. The pharmacy and administrative offices will go upstairs.

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