Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut January 12, 2018 - 9:30 am

Medical travel leaves some Nunavummiut hanging over the holidays

“This is an ongoing problem. And it’s costing a lot of money”

Residents of Coral Harbour say they're frustrated with glitches to their medical travel, including unscheduled appointments and unbooked flights. (FILE PHOTO)
Residents of Coral Harbour say they're frustrated with glitches to their medical travel, including unscheduled appointments and unbooked flights. (FILE PHOTO)

Some Nunavummiut say they spent part of the holiday season away from home waiting for medical appointments that never actually happened.

On Dec. 31, a Coral Harbour woman flew to Rankin Inlet and then on to Winnipeg in anticipation of a Jan. 2 ultrasound at a city hospital.

Maggie (who did not want to use her real name) told Nunatsiaq News she spent New Year’s Eve alone in her hotel room.

She said she arrived Jan. 2 at the hospital for her appointment only to be told three hours later that she was on “standby” and might not be seen that day.

The woman flew home the following day, without having had her ultrasound, and her local health centre has rescheduled the appointment for February.

“I’m going to make sure they have everything set up next time,” she said. “Or I’m just not going to go.”

Maggie believes the problem is miscommunication between the local health clinics who make the initial appointment and health care providers in Manitoba.

Medical travel glitches are nothing new in a territory that must send its residents south for specialized health care.

But newly elected Aivilik MLA Patterk Netser said he’s seeing an increase in the number of people in the region scheduled on trips where either the flight or appointment hasn’t been properly booked in advance.

And Netser plans to raise the issue at the next sitting of the legislative assembly in March.

“It seems to have become more and more of an issue,” said Netser, saying he frequently runs into constituents at the local airport returning from unsuccessful medical travel, or he reads their stories on social media.

Over the holidays, Netser said his brother attended a medical appointment in Winnipeg, but when he tried to check in to the flight home, his name wasn’t on the manifest.

“Having been a minister before, I believe there’s a disconnect between medical professionals and the staff setting up the appointments,” he said. “Someone’s not doing their job.”

It’s clearly an issue of miscommunication, but it comes at a steep price, Netser said, noting a one-way trip from Coral Harbour to Winnipeg can run over $2,000.

In 2016/17, the Government of Nunavut’s Health Department said the average cost of a medical travel airfare was $1,170 per round trip.

Over that same period, the department spent a total of $74 million on medical travel, which amounts to about $2,400 for every Nunavut resident during that year.

Netser said a newly elected government, along with a new health minister, Pat Angnakak, may help to tackle the issue.

“This is an ongoing problem,” he said. “And it’s costing a lot of money.”

For its part, the Department of Health told Nunatsiaq News that it is looking into the factors influencing the glitches some patients have reported.

The department launched a review of its medical travel policy and program last July, which has sought to consult Nunavummiut on their medical travel experiences.

The government hasn’t indicated when the review will wrap up, but it will issue a report with recommendations.

Nunavummiut who have questions or concerns about their scheduled medical travel can contact Nunavut’s office of patient relations by phone at 1-855-438-3003 or by email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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(11) Comments:

#1. Posted by uvaga on January 12, 2018

been going on since the Penner’s been gone, why in the first place did they get rid of the Penner’s??? nobody like’s going to inuit center in Winnipeg, they treat everybody like dogs, I know we are dog’s (according to people who work’s there) but sick people, elder’s being mistreated, drag patient to the room, they are lazy.

#2. Posted by Nunavut on January 12, 2018

Wow! $74 Million crazy.

#3. Posted by Martha A on January 12, 2018

That’s one of the reasons why Rankin needs a boarding home and also to get proper equipment in Rankin. Where everyone feels closer to home. The health center is trying to be considered a hospital, but the issue is that there is not advanced equipments there. Where iqaluit has a boarding home, and has the proper equipment in their region, also Cambridge Bay has a hospital too. Why can’t Rankin get the proper equipment and boarding home. Its not fair for the region as both region has one why can’t Kivalliq have one also.

#4. Posted by Dr.doolittle on January 12, 2018

Too many illiterate and low order thinkers in the employment of GN.  Too much nepotism too(health Department)

#5. Posted by Father Time on January 12, 2018

The quality of medical services for Inuit is questionable at best. We just heard of a man in Igloolik who had a broken arm and not seen when it happened and misdiagnosed when he went to the health center and the wound made worse by stupidity and the power that is still being abused by the poor overworked nurses. Many other cases can be brought up in the battle to be seen even in the most emergency of situations. I think a shift or the addition of more hours where people can walk in and be seen after hours is needed.

Medical travel is a night mare but some regions are better than others in certain areas. improvements must always be sought.

#6. Posted by iRoll on January 12, 2018

Bumbling bureaucratic incompetence. Is anyone even close to being surprised by this? I doubt it.

#7. Posted by David MacDougall on January 12, 2018

It’s not an Inuit problem, it’s a northern problem. My family is all white and I’m very unhappy with the healthcare we receive. The reality is, quality healthcare workers can work wherever they want in Canada. In the north, we get the workers that have fewer choices.

Northern and rural Canadians all share this problem.

#8. Posted by Sue S on January 13, 2018

Some health workers prefer to work in isolated or remote communities and have many choices down south. I know some really good practitioners who are dedicated to the communities.

#9. Posted by Sam on January 13, 2018

former health minister was useless did nothing to improve medical services in nu.hope that changes with a new minister,now get new staff

#10. Posted by Father Time on January 15, 2018

#7 it is an Inuit problem that you personally have not experienced, it is the battle to be seen by a majority white employed nurses. Just to be seen, not even at the point of judging whether it is good medical service when you can’t get any service at all. Of’coure it is not the case with all health centers and all towns but in general the real case is an inuk man broke his arm tried to go the the health center and was refused entry then misdiagnosed and sent home without the basic xray even i know that much. this is normal more than the exception. We even die in situations like this.

#11. Posted by Inuk on January 15, 2018

Imagine if you had to stay for very long time just to get healthy again. We have families too & it’s hard to show the struggle we are in. It’s been a while since the treatment has to be provided to my partner. Being far from family is hard especially when we need their comforts & support be glad you are home longer to support yourself.
#FightingCancer can be hard emotionally

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