Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut October 17, 2012 - 7:35 am

Nunavut SAOs skeptical of GN public health funding scheme

“They’re your programs. You run them"

JANE GEORGE
Janelle Budgell, Nunavut's territorial wellness coordinator, touts the new way that the Government of Nunavut hands out public health money to hamlets Oct. 16 at the annual meeting of the Nunavut Association of Municipal Administrators. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
Janelle Budgell, Nunavut's territorial wellness coordinator, touts the new way that the Government of Nunavut hands out public health money to hamlets Oct. 16 at the annual meeting of the Nunavut Association of Municipal Administrators. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

More than half a dozen Government of Nunavut public health workers want get people in Nunavut communities to decide what public health programs they need and then make the hamlets administer these programs.

But hamlet officials meeting in Iqaluit this week say this new approach adds to their workload and pays them less than before.

The GN’s goal is reduce the workload of hamlet officials, Janelle Budgell, the territorial wellness coordinator, said Oct. 16 at the annual general meeting of the Nunavut Association of Municipal Administrators.

But many municipal senior administrative officers doubt the health department’s new approach, first announced as a “fantastic” improvement last April, will lead to a reduced workload.

First, the GN wants all hamlets to strike and maintain a community health and wellness committee.

Such committees, which receive $10,000 a year for honoraria in communities, define which public health programs each community needs.

But finding people willing to sit on yet another committee in a small community like Chesterfeld Inlet, population 332, is difficult, said the community’s SAO, Elwood Johnson.

The result is more work for the few people who already carry a heavy load in the community, Johnson said

Johnson’s advice to the GN: “they’re your programs. You run them”

The setting up of community health and wellness committees isn’t the only change that Nunavut’s health and social department is promoting.

There’s also its “community cluster plan” approach to funding public health programs.

The department now asks each hamlet, with its new committee, to produce a “community cluster plan.”

In this plan, communities decide which one of three “cluster” categories their public health programs fit into: healthy children, families and communities; chronic disease and injury prevention; or mental health and addictions.

Hamlets are then supposed to roll these programs into a one plan for a period of one to five years.

This plan says whether a community wants to focus on prenatal nutrition programs, early childhood development programs or teen suicide prevention programs, and to offer special events like movie nights.

And it means hamlets submit one funding application to the GN and one annual report to the GN instead of many.

“Our goal is to reduce the administration,” said Budgell, who said it’s easier than submitting numerous program applications and reports.

“You have to trust me, we’re trying to make your jobs easier.”

But Budgell’s promise didn’t convince SAOs around the table.

That’s because while the five-year “community cluster plan” increases the overall amount handed to hamlets for program administration, for other hamlets with wellness centres, it means less.

As well, the five-year program doesn’t include any increases to cover rising administrative costs over that period.

This means if hamlets sign up for a five-year funding plan, they won’t get more money in year five than they did in year one to offer the same programs.

In the case of Cambridge Bay, SAO Steve King pointed out that the change to the new five-year “community cluster plan” means his hamlet is already getting $400,000 less per year for its wellness centre. Previously, the hamlet received a larger amount per program to cover administration costs.

This allowed it to cover the operation and management of its wellness centre, a hub for the community’s many local social programs.

King said the money now given to hamlets — 10 per cent of a program’s overall cost — no longer includes any extra money for operation and maintenance: “all you’re doing is running the program.”

Budgell insisted “that there hasn’t been a reduction.”

But King said “we’ve lost thousands and thousands of dollars.”

King also criticized the way the new funding plan also sets salaries, which are sometimes lower than the hamlet pay scale.

“I don’t like the GN to be setting our wages. It should be the hamlet,” he said.

But not all hamlet SAOs slammed the new way to deliver public health programs.

André Larabie from Sanikiluaq said the new system has worked well in his community — which is less than half the size of Cambridge Bay and has no wellness centre.

But he also questioned the lack of funding increases over the course five-year program.

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