As the Kivalliq Inuit Centre struggled to keep up with the ever-increasing needs for medical travellers, Sakku Investments Corporation has now purchased the Clarion Hotel in Winnipeg to become its new medical boarding facility.
The facility hosts 139 rooms, 40,000 square feet of commercial office space, event areas, a pool, spa and much more.
“There are a lot of amenities that are available throughout the building that we currently don’t have with the existing location,” said David Kakuktinniq, president and CEO of Sakku Investments Corporation.
The Kivalliq Inuit Centre, the previous location for medical travellers, is a 44-room facility with 120 beds, but with the arrangement of three beds per room, there were often challenges making use of the space and housing everyone who needed it. Kakuktinniq said 200 people per day are being processed for medical, which meant some would be sent to overflow facilities when the Kivalliq Inuit Centre became full. That, in turn, led to significant stresses for medical travellers, their escorts and the staff charged with getting them to appointments and making sure their needs were taken care of.
“What that created was a very difficult situation for clients,” said Kakuktinniq, adding that medical travellers especially need everything to work out well in their time of need. “Everything should be smooth, and it wasn’t.”
Sakku and the Government of Nunavut have been collaborating on the initiative to move into a bigger facility for a couple of years, with finalization of the purchase of Clarion and a five-year GN contract to run it as a medical boarding home just recently.
When it comes to the purchase, Sakku bought the hotel, property and everything that goes with it, including the staff.
“We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel,” said Kakuktinniq about that decision, adding that “it’s been a godsend” to have the institutional knowledge of long-term staff at the Clarion to help ease the transition.
The hotel will continue to operate like a hotel but now with the mandate that it’s focused exclusively on Kivalliq Inuit medical travellers. The franchise agreement with Choice Hotels will be ending early this month.
About 100 medical travellers are already at the Clarion location, though Sakku is continuing the lease of the Kivalliq Inuit Centre until September 30 so all the services can be transferred. In the meantime, medical travellers will be staying at either the Clarion location or the Kivalliq Inuit Centre, depending on their needs.
One thing that won’t be coming to the Clarion is the Kivalliq Inuit Centre name, as the property owners for that location own it.
“I wish there was a better way around that,” smiled Kakuktinniq, adding that there will likely be some sort of contest or public way of determining the facility’s new name.
Over the years, the Kivalliq Inuit Centre has faced accusations online of poor service or rude staff at times. Kakuktinniq explained that those issues stemmed from the pressures of trying to operate a significant enterprise from a facility that couldn’t fit it.
“It’s very hard to maintain any kind of decorum in these situations,” said Kakuktinniq about the stress of trying to service patients with inadequate resources. “As much as everybody tries, things start to percolate.”
And with the announcement of the new location, “there’s nobody happier about this transition than the staff,” he said.
Many plans with the new building are still taking shape. For one, Kakuktinniq said the parkade is set to be demolished and replaced with a smaller one, while the organization also looks at ways to use the many rooms and areas of the new facility to better meet client needs. One idea they are looking at is turning one of the rooms into a chapel for religious services.