Nunavut MLA: Kitikmeot residents worried about medevacs
“There are always two sides to a story,” minister responds
People in Nunavut’s Kitikmeot region are concerned about the quality of emergency medevac services they’re receiving, as a result of stories in the media, says Nattilik MLA Jeanne Ugyuk.
Those concerns prompted her to stand up March 4 in the Nunavut legislature to ask health minister Keith Peterson if his department monitors the length of time it takes for an emergency medevac flight to arrive to pick up Kitikmeot patients and deliver them to their destination.
“People should not believe everything they read,” said Peterson, who added that “there are always two sides to a story.”
In February of 2012, Nunatsiaq News reported that Betty Atighioyak, 32, of Cambridge Bay, died in Edmonton on Dec. 8, 2011 following a medevac flight from Cambridge Bay.
Her husband, Leonard Epilon, alleged at the time that she suffered from a lengthy delay in the arrangement of her medevac flight, and that Aqsaqniq Airways Ltd., which now holds the medevac contract for the region, did not have a Learjet positioned in Cambridge Bay at the time, as required by their contract.
The GN later denied that allegation in a letter to Epilon, saying the flight only took four hours and 33 minutes to reach Edmonton after departing Cambridge Bay.
During his responses to Ugyuk, Peterson said his officials keep track of medevacs, and that there “is no one who is more concerned about air ambulance travel in the Kitikmeot than me because I come from Cambridge Bay.”
But Ugyuk also wanted to know if there’s an emergency aircraft “permanently positioned in Cambridge Bay.”
To that Peterson said that he “believed” that the primary aircraft for medevacs, a Learjet 355, was “based in the Kitikmeot,” and that it’s backed up by a King Air 200 out of Yellowknife.
Cambridge Bay-based Adlair Aviation Ltd., which provided air ambulance emergency medevac work in the Kitikmeot since the 1970s, in late 2011 lost a contract it had held since 2002.
Adlair had a Learjet 25b jet located at its hangar at the Cambridge Bay airport.
The winning bidder, a firm called Aqsaqniq, won the work after responding to a request for proposals the Government of Nunavut issued in February of 2011 and started medevacs late in 2012.
Last month, Nunatsiaq News reported, based on court documents, that Aqsaqniq and other firms bidding on the $30-million medevac contract for the Kitikmeot region in 2011 were not required to have an office, hangar, staff, equipment or Transport Canada aviation licences at the time when bids closed.
That, and other information, was contained in a statement of defence the Government of Nunavut filed in response to a lawsuit Adlair launched this past December.
In its lawsuit, Adlair alleged that by awarding the work to the winning bidder, Aqsaqniq, the GN caused “critical delays in their air ambulance service leading to delays in medical treatment and the death of patients.”
Ugyuk wanted to know if the change in the contract represented a reduction or downgrade in services.
Peterson said he’s “endeavoured” to make sure there’s no reduction or decrease in the level of service,
“There are some issues to be ironed out, but I want to assure the folks in the Kitikmeot that there has been no decrease in the level of service,” he said.
Peterson said the delivery of air ambulance services in the region was still in a “transition year.”