Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut October 04, 2012 - 5:04 am

Nunavut health minister vows action on CamBay health centre

The $20-million Kitikmeot Health Centre remains understaffed, underused

JANE GEORGE
The roomy, well-equipped Kitikmeot health centre in Cambridge Bay is
The roomy, well-equipped Kitikmeot health centre in Cambridge Bay is "undervalued," Nunavut health minister Keith Peterson said Oct. 3 while speaking to the Kitikmeot Inuit Association's annual general meeting in Cambridge Bay. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
Keith Peterson, the MLA for Cambridge Bay and Nunavut's minister for health and finance, meets Oct. 3 with delegates at the Kitikmeot Inuit Association in Cambridge Bay. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
Keith Peterson, the MLA for Cambridge Bay and Nunavut's minister for health and finance, meets Oct. 3 with delegates at the Kitikmeot Inuit Association in Cambridge Bay. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

When Cambridge Bay MLA Keith Peterson, who is also Nunavut’s minister of health and finance, spoke to the Kitikmeot Inuit Association’s annual general meeting Oct. 3, he made a promise: to get the Kitikmeot Health Centre running up to capacity.

Peterson said he’s pained to see the $20-million-plus health centre “undervalued, when we have a desperate need for health care needs in the Kitikmeot.”

That is “unacceptable,” he said.

Since its opening, the health centre has had trouble finding staff housing for nurses and doctors. A triplex built by the Kitikmeot Corp. to house doctors was rejected by the GN, he said.

In 2006, the centre suffered a fire.

After that, materials earmarked to upgrade an old hostel into a patient boarding home in Cambridge Bay were used on the health centre’s repairs.

A fully-staffed health centre with a patient boarding home was supposed to allow people from other Kitikmeot communities to come to Cambridge Bay for medical treatment.

But now they’re still taking expensive medical travel trips to Yellowknife,

At the meeting, Peterson listed some of the improvements in health and social services people in the Kitikmeot can look forward to, such as the $26-million health centre for Taloyoak and the mobile addictions treatment program in Cambridge Bay, whose start-up continues to be delayed.

Peterson also updated delegates about the state of Nunavut’s finance department.

His message about Nunavut’s finances: the past four years have been “very challenging” for all governments.

But “we are forecasting a surplus in 2012-13,” he said.

The Auditor General of Canada is now satisfied that Government of Nunavut accounts are “accurate” and that “we are managing our finances.

About $220 million will be available for infrastructure in 2012-13, he said.

That’s not enough, he acknowledged.

And when Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Cambridge Bay last August on his annual northern tour, Peterson said he and Aariak told Harper that Nunavut needs a special infrstucture fund.

Peterson also heard feed-back from delegates — such their concerns about long waits to see nurses in their communities and worries about the impact of alcohol.

Peterson, who is also responsible for the Liquor task force, said cabinet is now reviewing the task force’s recommendations.

Peterson also learned about the KIA’s continuing frustration over the closure of the CBC North bureau in Cambridge Bay.

CBC North’s Kitikmeot bureau opened April 1, 1998 in Cambridge Bay after years of lobbying by Kitkimeot leaders.

It closed 10 years later despite an assurance from a CBC spokesperson that “we have a commitment to the Kitikmeot and we intend to fulfill it.”

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