Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut April 19, 2017 - 2:30 pm

Prenatal escorts in Nunavut already eligible for travel funding under new policy

But the GN says new policy is still being updated

Iqaluit's patient residence, located across the road from the Qikiqtani hospital, many see more clients with the arrival of new funding for prenatal escorts in Nunavut. (FILE PHOTO)
Iqaluit's patient residence, located across the road from the Qikiqtani hospital, many see more clients with the arrival of new funding for prenatal escorts in Nunavut. (FILE PHOTO)

A newly-announced Health Canada policy has already been put in place to fund non-medical travel companions for pregnant Nunavut women who leave their communities to give birth.

The new directive came from the federal health minister, Jane Philpott, during a media interview she gave earlier this month.

Philpott said forcing pregnant couples to pay for their own travel, or worse, leaving women to travel or birth alone, had “a whole bunch of negative outcomes,” she told the Canadian Press.

“It requires significant resources in order to be able to do that, but it is absolutely a wise investment,” Philpott said of the policy change April 9.

Nunavut’s health department said last week that, effective immediately, one non-medical prenatal escort is eligible to have their travel covered by Health Canada’s Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) program, available to Inuit and First Nations across the country.

“The department is encouraged by the news,” said the Government of Nunavut’s deputy minister of health, Colleen Stockley, in a statement emailed to Nunatsiaq News.

All Nunavut community health centres have been advised of the change, she added, and the department has developed processes to facilitate the approval of those escorts.

The NIHB’s medical transportation benefit is administered by the territorial government on behalf of Health Canada through a contribution agreement.

But neither the GN nor Health Canada had many other details about what the new policy would mean in Nunavut, while both levels of government update the benefit policy document, Health Canada told Nunatsiaq News.

What they can say: the new policy offers full coverage of the cost of prenatal escorts for expectant Nunavut Inuit mothers.

Currently the NIHB pays $250 for travel for Indigenous patients who have to deliver outside their communities, plus $50 per day for patients staying at boarding facilities, hotels or with billets.

Any remaining uninsured accommodation or care costs for Nunavut Inuit patients are covered by the GN’s health budget.

Up until now, prenatal escorts were only authorized only when it was considered medically necessary.

Now the GN will get additional funding through the NIHB to cover travel costs for those escorts, but not necessarily coverage of accommodation and meals.

That raises questions about how the GN will manage a potential influx of medical travellers, especially in its already-crowded patient boarding facilities. Nunavut’s health department has yet to provide more details.

Health Canada said it couldn’t be sure how much of the new NIHB funding would be directed to Nunavut, given the program is driven by demand.

But based on past coverage for prenatal travel from the territory, Health Canada estimated additional costs for escort travel could be $22 million in 2017-2018.

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(9) Comments:

#1. Posted by earth3rd on April 19, 2017

Does it actually have to be a parent being the escort?

#2. Posted by Tim on April 19, 2017

Only “available to Inuit and First Nations”. A further entrenchment of race-based government policies.

#3. Posted by Inukness on April 19, 2017

Although giving birth days are gone, kudos to the ones who are able to make babies. For the comment #2 it not race-based…it’s the inukness that we are proud of.

#4. Posted by Brad Chambers on April 19, 2017

Great news! Let families grow together and give mothers family support. As for comment #2, the program is race-based, but is not racist. Fair does not mean the same. It would be great to live in a world that had no racial divides, but we would have to go way back in time and redo a lot of history. Doing away with race-based policy now is convenient for some, but an unfair move for everyone else.
Glad to see the GN moving quickly to implement the change.

#5. Posted by NWT on April 20, 2017

GNWT just announced that Every woman who has to leave the territory to give birth will have a paid escort. Every one. No matter her last name or skin colour.

It’s not just about having an escort for some families - it may also be about the father wanting to be there for the birth of his child.

#6. Posted by Further analysis required on April 20, 2017

What about families with other children? If both parents are funded to leave the community but the children are not, who will look after the children? Will there be compensation to offset the cost of childcare? Will children be funded to accompany their parents to welcome their new sibling? What about missed classroom time? How will this impact the boarding homes? The Iqaluit boarding home is often overfull so the manager rooms guests at her B&B.
I am happy for the people who are able to take advantage of this new policy, but I know there are many who won’t be able to use it.

#7. Posted by Dictionary on April 23, 2017

Comment #4:
“Racism is discrimination and prejudice towards people based on their race or ethnicity.”

That’s the definition, I’ll leave it to you to see if it applies or not.

#8. Posted by eskimo joe on April 25, 2017

#2, I do not give big rat’s ass about your comment. inuit did not ask for this, it was volunteered, in this case; i’ll take it. come to think of it, many policies are volunteered by both levels of governments for inuit services, blame them stop and screaming discrimination….do you think there’s a little inuk and his/her think tank team sitting in some igloo office building pondering what’s next for us and lobby governments for it?

#9. Posted by RonaldDrody on April 29, 2017

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