Nunavut MLAs call for review of patient complaints procedure
Motion squeaks by March 1 in Committee of the Whole vote
(updated at 1:40 p.m.)
Johnny Ningeongan, MLA for Nanulik and the chair of Nunavut legislature’s committee of the whole, exercised the power of his position as committee chair March 1.
Ningeongan, who represents the community of Coral Harbour, cast the deciding vote in support of a motion that calls for a review of the patient and client complaints procedure of the Government of Nunavut’s health and social services department.
The review is to be tabled during the fall sitting of the legislature.
Amittuq MLA Louis Tapardjuk, who made the motion, said patients across Nunavut have been complaining to MLAs for years that their health care concerns are not being heard.
Tapardjuk said many of the complaints come from elders, who struggle with cultural and language barriers when dealing with health care staff.
“We simply don’t know how to deal with it, so we need to come up with some kind of policy or procedure,” he told Nunatsiaq News. “Especially after health boards were dissolved in 1999 – there’s no longer a mechanism to lodge a proper complaint on health matters.”
Eight MLAs — Amittuq’s Louis Tapardjuk, Pangnirtung’s Hezakiah Oshutapik, Iqaluit West’s Monica Ell, Tununiq’s Joe Enook, Rankin North’s Tagak Curley, Akulliq’s John Ningark, Baker Lake’s Aupaluktuq and Hudson Bay’s Allan Rumbolt voted in favour of the motion proposed by Tapardjuk.
And eight other MLAS — Nattilik’s Jeannie Ugyuk, Cambridge Bay’s Keith Peterson, South Baffin’s Fred Schell, Arviat’s Daniel Shewchuk, Kugluktuk’s Peter Taptuna, Iqaluit East’s Eva Aariak, Uqqummiut’s James Arreak, and Rankin Inlet South’s Lorne Kusugak — voted against the motion in the recordedvote.
In explaining why he supported the motion, Ningeongan said he’s “an individual from a small community.”
“I understand exactly where the motion is coming from. Mr. Tapardjuk stated that as members of small communities, the only individual we can rely on in the health sector is the nurse and the nursing station, and there’s nowhere else to go, especially for the elders in our community. With that and at the Chair’s discretion, I support the motion. The motion is carried,” he said.
Before the vote on the motion, health minister Keith Peterson tried to argue against the review, saying that his department is already overloaded with looking after the health needs of people in Nunavut.
“I’ll be very busy with health ministers of Canada meetings to look at how we can improve health care in Canada and in our territory so that we can provide a better level of service,” he said. “I just don’t know if I can continue to tie up resources when we’ve got so many very important initiatives to initiate, undertake, and complete so that we can make this an independent department in Nunavut.”
Peterson, said the review would “tie us up,” vowed to improve service without the review.
“I do commit that I will continue to stress throughout our department that we’ll work with our clients and provide a strong level of service and make our community health centres more welcoming,” he said.
Adjustments in transfers of federal health care money mean there may be “additional funding so that we can do some more things for our health care in Nunavut, he said.
But Peterson’s arguments did not sway the vote.
Nattilik’s Jeannie Ugyuk, the only non-cabinet member to vote against the motion, said that health care workers in Nunavut communities do the best they can to serve their patients.
“They do all they can to help the people and they work late nights to take care of people who require medical services,” she told the assembly Mar.2
“They are not gods, and we have to look at other ways to find solutions. We can’t just wait for somebody to help us.”