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Kugluktuk prepared to build continuing care facility

The Hamlet of Kugluktuk is ready to build and staff a 24-bed continuing care centre, if the Department of Health will sign a service agreement to use the facility.

The Department of Health opened an eight-bed long-term care facility at the Kitikmeot Health Centre in March. Kugluktuk is seeking approval to build its own 24-bed continuing care centre. photo courtesy of the Department of Health

The hamlet has its own equity to devote to the project and has financial institutions prepared to lend the balance, deputy mayor Grant Newman said. Because legislation doesn't allow the hamlet to directly own and operate the facility, the municipality would work with two separate arms-length entities.

"One would own the building and one would run the services and have the staff," Newman said, adding that the reception from the Government of Nunavut has been "very positive."

A service agreement, whereby the GN pays for the nursing care for long-term residents, could be signed as early as this week, Newman said.

"You can't really guarantee it, but it does sound good that the numbers work for them (government officials)... the government (pays) X amount of dollars per bed, per month and that covers the cost of everything: the building cost, the staffing and O&M (operations and maintenance) costs," he said.

The Department of Health could not provide comment before Nunavut News' deadline.

The long-term care workers would be considered hamlet employees, Newman noted, adding that Department of Health bureaucrats have scrutinized the staffing plan rigorously.

"We've met all their criteria and more," he said.

Recognizing that the GN doesn't have the capital budget to construct a long-term care facility in Kugluktuk in the foreseeable future, this model could set a precedent for other municipalities that can afford it, Newman suggested.

"If it does happen and it's successful, you'll see more of them going through Nunavut, for sure," the deputy mayor predicted. "It's not cheap, obviously. The price tag is kind of high, but Kugluktuk is known for being proactive and doing stuff on its own."

In the last sitting of the legislative assembly, Rankin Inlet MLAs Tom Sammurtok and Alexander Sammurtok took turns imploring Health Minister George Hickes for a facility where seniors could receive long-term care rather than be sent out of the community.

On June 2, Hickes told Tom Sammurtok, who spent his entire term doggedly revisiting the issue, that a proposal involving outside entities would be a route to consider.

"If there are third parties and partners available out there that are looking at investing in infrastructure and facilities such as this, it would be something that the department would obviously look very favourably upon to provide care in the territory," Hickes said.

A continuing care centre has long been a "very high priority" for residents of the Kitikmeot community, according to Newman.

"They really want to see the elders and their family close to them. It's hard when somebody's (sent to) Gjoa Haven or down south," he said. "A lot of people are keen to see the elders come back home."

The Hamlet of Kugluktuk began demolishing some old buildings and garages earlier this year to create space for the continuing care centre. Newman said the location, although it still needs to be formally approved, is close to the schools and the river.

Plans for the continuing care centre have been evolving, with the help of consultants, for two years, Newman said.

"We've done a lot of work on it, I mean a lot of work," he said.

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