Baffin health board contemplates its possible demise

The chair of the Baffin health board is urging board members to lobby against the abolition of Nunavut’s three health boards.


Nunatsiaq News

OTTAWA — Some members of the Baffin Regional Health and Social Services Board are worried their group may be in danger of losing its job.

At a special meeting of the board in Ottawa this week, board chairman Dennis Patterson urged members to tell their MLAs about the good work the board does and to lobby against abolishing regional health and social service boards in Nunavut.

“As chairman and your representative, I will do my best to express the value of the boards,” said Patterson.

If the board were to be replaced by a government department, it might not be as accountable to the public, Patterson said. He said the health boards’ greatest strengths are their links to the community .

“I’m concerned because we need to deal with community issues within the community,” said board member Charlie Inuaraq. “Are they going to develop brand new programs? Is that why they want to take this away from us?”

Patterson said he thought one reason the Nunavut Implementation Commission might have suggested abolishing the boards was as a cost saving measure.

“I have always thought arguments of cost to be not very impressive,” Patterson said.

In its Footprints reports, the NIC had recommended that the GNWT’s health boards be abolished under a Nunavut government.

The money spent on the administration of the board and on honoraria for board members accounted for less than 1 per cent of the $42 million the territory spends on health in total, Patterson said.

“The government would not save any significant amount of money.”

Inuaraq worried that some MLAs who had campaigned on a platform of abolishing the health boards, but hadn’t won, would nonetheless continue to lobby for abolition. He spoke of one candidate in particular who appeared on a radio program.

“Because he has free will, he will be out in the community communicating this idea,” said Inuaraq.

“The only problem would be with the new MLA’s. Quite a bit of work would have to be done to explain to them what the situation is in health care,” said Joe Arlooktoo.

“The danger is we could be replaced and all the work we have done will just go by the wayside,” said Annie Manning-Pitseolak.

One board member at least was not worried about the prospect of the new territorial government changing things.

“I am not as alarmed with the situation with the new MLAs as some others,” said Joanasie Kooneeloosie.

“Often when you work with an idea you have to make changes. We all have to keep our minds open and be open to change.”

Patterson said that any change after the new government came to power would almost certainly be gradual.

“Any health minister who would just announce that he and his staff were assuming all the responsibilities would be biting off a lot.”

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