Health minister John Main recognized that Baker Lake MLA Craig Simailak may not be satisfied with his answers on when the community would see a new health centre, as the two discussed the issue during the legislative assembly May 29.

Main told Simailak that the Baker Lake health centre is not sufficient for the community, as it was built in the 1990s and is too small and old.

“We look at a number of different factors in terms of looking at which health centres need upgrading or replacement,” he said. “We look at the age of the facility, the floor area, the population projections, and there is also facility condition that is looked at. Those are the main factors that are looked at in terms of prioritizing.

Simailak said the Government of Nunavut’s five-year capital plan does not include a health centre for the community, yet Main had mentioned “on more than one occasion” that the facility was being considered as a capital project in the near future. He asked for clarity on its status and where Baker Lake’s health centre sat in the list of priorities for his department.

Main responded that Qikiqtarjuaq is at the top right now.

“I had the pleasure of bringing the federal health minister to Qikiqtarjuaq and he saw with his own eyes how inadequate and quite sad, to be frank, that facility is,” said Main. “Not to say that the staff and the community aren’t amazing, but the infrastructure in that case is quite troubling to see with your own eyes. Baker Lake is the next facility on our list of prioritizations behind Qikiqtarjuaq.”

Simailak said he was glad Baker Lake was second on the list and noted some of the poor conditions of the health centre, such as having to walk over piles of footwear when entering, little room for health services delivery and even less room for visiting specialists.

“Meanwhile, the tuberculosis screening clinic is basically an oversized closet,” said Simailak. “The community of Baker Lake continues to grow. The need for replacement of our health centre is becoming more and more desperate. Can the minister tell this House when he anticipates Baker Lake will be opening the doors of its new replacement health centre?”

But Main could not answer that.

“I know that the member won’t be happy with this response, but I can’t give a firm a date,” he said. “I can say ‘as soon as possible’ and ‘as soon as possible’ depends on the available funding resources that we are able to secure, and also with the caveat that through the capital planning process, we have limited capital funds and so we put our priorities forward, but there are infrastructure needs in other areas.”

He added that one option being considered is repurposing the Martha Taliruq Centre across the road t make it a usable workspace with health programming as a stopgag measure.

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