National public health watchdog to open Nunavut outlet
“Through the pandemic, we realized there was a huge gap”
After noticing a “huge gap” during the 2009 H1N1 swine flu scare, the Public Health Agency of Canada will open an office in Iqaluit, likely by the end of this year, federal health minister Leona Aglukkaq said June 21 on a visit to Nunavut.
“What this means for Nunavut is that when we are dealing with public health emergencies like H1N1 and whatnot, there is a presence in the territory to work with the territorial government hand in hand,” Aglukkaq said.
The plan to set up a Public Health Agency office in Iqaluit is old news — funding for it is contained in the Conservative government’s 2012-13 budget released this past March 29.
But it does mean Canada’s national public health watchdog will get an on-the-ground presence in Nunavut, the only jurisdiction in Canada without a Public Health Agency office.
“Through the pandemic, we realized there was a huge gap and we had to send the public health agency to Nunavut. So we’re really establishing full-time positions here to work in line with the [territorial government], reaching out to the people that we’re serving,” Aglukkaq said.
The federal public health office will be located at the new Allavvik building in Iqaluit, which also leases space to the Canadian Northern Development Agency.
A spokesperson for Aglukkaq said federal officials are still in discussion with Government of Nunavut health officials about the precise number of employees who will work at the Public Health Agency office and how they will collaborate with territorial public health employees.
About 2,400 people work for the Public Health Agency of Canada. Offices are located in every province, with one or two positions each in Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
Right now, the Public Health Agency serves Nunavut through an administrative region called “Ontario/Nunavut.”
Aglukkaq said the Nunavut office will give the agency a “complete presence” across the country.
The agency’s job is to handle big health emergencies, provide surveillance against the spread of infectious disease and chronic injuries, do health promotion and help territorial and provincial public health offices collaborate with each other.