Facing a number of delays over the last year, the new Inuulisautinut Niuvirvik centre has finally opened it’s doors on July 8, bringing new businesses and services to Iqaluit including a pharmacy, health food grocery store, a new Booster Juice and most notably, a new optometry clinic, where visiting Nunavummiut will be able to update their prescription glasses without having to go down south.

“The name of the store Inuulisautinut Niuvirvik means a place of healing and a place of wellness, that’s the alternative that we offer to people,” said Tom Kennedy, store manager for Inuulisautinut Niuvirvik.

Inuulisautinut Niuvirvik offers a large selection of vegan-friendly, non-GMO and gluten-free options to browse from.

The outbreak of COVID-19 in Iqaluit caused a number of delays for the grand opening with transportation woes being just one of the problems that stemmed from it.

“COVID really slowed us down on many levels, not just with labor issues but also with shipping, transportation, production of structures,” said Kennedy.

He estimates the delay set them back six to eight months.

“We’re thrilled to have this day finally come,” said Larry Fortes, director of Sales and Operations with the North West Company.

Earlier in the year there were no licensed optometrists in all of Nunavut and a wait list that only grew in the meantime.

See related: Eye teams resume travelling to communities for non-urgent care

Now that there is one in Iqaluit the store manager notes they already have a waiting list for the optical department.

Iqaluit’s new optometrist is excited to bring a service that is much needed to the north, adding it’s disappointing that in country like Canada that there are people who still can’t access much-needed services.

“We pride ourselves in having universal healthcare, but it’s not always accessible to everybody, so it’s really exciting when this opportunity came up, where I could come to the North and be involved with the community and also bring a much need service,” said Gayle Harrison, optometrist for Inuulisautinut Niuvirvik’s new optical centre.

She’s heard there’s around 800 people who are now on the waiting list, a far larger amount than that seen in late 2020.

Anyone who is interested in scheduling an exam can go and get registered at the optical centre.

Those who were currently on a previously existing waiting list will still have to contact the optical centre prior to scheduling an exam, which start July 14.

Harrison is asking for patience while they finish getting set up, as a clerk and other positions need to be filled at the centre.

“New things always take time, I hope people are patient with us but our goal is to get as many people the care that they need as soon as possible.”

Even when she isn’t around, there’s a newly installed system to allow optometrists to conduct exams remotely, one of the first teleoptometry systems to go live in Canada.

Both Kennedy and Harrison expressed their excitement in bringing new services and goods to Iqaluit.

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