NEWS: Nunavut March 08, 2018 – 9:30 am
Health minister says medical travel review to wrap up by next year
Nunavummiut suffer from too many mix-ups in medical travel scheduled by the Department of Health, Aivilik MLA Patterk Netser said yesterday in the legislative assembly.
“There is a systemic failure to provide good services in the area of medical travel,” Netser said in a member’s statement, repeating complaints he made earlier this year.
Netser said his constituents are getting stranded during medical travel and often have to use airport phones to contact the medical travel office.
And some people even fly south for medical appointments that never happen or that have been pushed to a later date, he said.
“It’s not set up right. It needs to be corrected,” he said.
Problems caused by botched medical travel have been raised many times in Nunavut’s legislature, especially following the airline codeshare agreements that made appointment schedules hard to streamline.
“I know about it and I can tell you that I do not agree with it and it is not acceptable,” said Health Minister Pat Angnakak.
“These problems aren’t just in one area. We have problems when it comes to travel, accommodations, escorts, appointments and that’s why we are in the middle of doing our comprehensive review.”
In July, the Department of Health launched a review of its medical travel policy, with the goal of surveying Nunavummiut about their experiences.
But Netser wanted to know when his constituents will start to see change.
“It seems that everything is in review, review, review. When will this review be done?” he asked.
Angnakak said she expects that review to be completed by next year. A report with recommendations should follow, she said.
“It will take some time to figure this out. It’s not an easy thing to just fix overnight,” she said, adding that staff in her department meet regularly with airline companies, hotel operators and boarding home contractors to try and work out smoother operations.
“We are trying. I know as a minister there is a problem. It’s going to take some time because I just don’t have that magic wand. If I had that magic wand I could fix everything right away. It will take time. We’re dealing with complex issues.”
But Netser said this isn’t news to him.
“I recognize that organizing and delivering medical travel services is a complex task, I don’t deny that. However, medical travel is a very costly service,” he said. “That is happening on a repeated basis. We use a great amount of money for the Department of Health and this creates even more costs.”
Netser called on the department to assess how much money it is losing through medical travel errors—a commitment Angnakak said she couldn’t make.
She did say that medical travel is more difficult in the Kivalliq region because there is no medical boarding home there.
The previous Nunavut government looked at options for opening a medical boarding home in the Rankin area.
Angnakak said she raised this possibility during a recent meeting with the federal Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott.
“We can still address problems as they come up on a daily basis,” Angnakak said.