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Disappointed Kugluktuk mayor will keep fighting for elders care centre

"Yeah, it was a disappointment."

That was Mayor Ryan Nivingalok's response to the Government of Nunavut's recent decision to examine all options for an elders' long-term care centre instead of throwing its support behind the Hamlet of Kugluktuk's proposal.

Kugluktuk Mayor Ryan Nivingalok: "We're not giving up" on proposal for an elders long-term care centre in Kugluktuk.
photo courtesy of Ryan Nivingalok

The hamlet has spent the past two years developing plans and a site for a 24-bed, 24-hour long-term care facility for elders.

"I don't think it's dead. We're not giving up. We'll still work at it," Nivingalok said. "We've got a lot of partners in this project. We're going to keep going forward, try. Hopefully we come out with the best."

Kugluktuk MLA Mila Kamingoak pressed the government for a positive response to Kugluktuk's proposal during the late May sitting of the legislative assembly.

Health Minister Pat Angnakak replied that since the new territorial government has taken power, there has been substantial interest expressed by numerous parties regarding long-term care centres that would keep elders in Nunavut, rather than sending them south.

"People from all over have started to say, 'We want to run the facility,'" Angnakak said. "We met as a cabinet to discuss the next steps of how we should be dealing with this and we decided in collaboration that we need to probably issue an RFP (request for proposals) because that would be the most transparent way of doing it."

The health minister added that she encouraged Kugluktuk's senior administrative officer to submit a proposal as part of that process, which will take a couple of months.

Kamingoak didn't accept that response. She said the hamlet's plan is "ready to go" with a fee-for-service structure and it hasn't been given adequate consideration.

A few days later Kamingoak made another statement, criticizing the GN's singular approach when Nunavut needs more than one new long-term care facility.

Mila Kamingoak: Kugluktuk MLA calls the government's position "very frustrating."
photo courtesy of Mila Kamingoak

"It is not clear why the government cannot consider and support different approaches to meeting

that need," she said. "It is very frustrating when, on the one hand, our government urges Nunavummiut to learn to be self-sufficient and to work together to find our own solutions, but on the other hand will not commit to providing the necessary support. Mr. Speaker, I would like to quote a line from the vision statement of our government's Turaaqtavut mandate: 'Government supports communities to build on their strengths and enables their self-reliance.'"

Nivingalok, who also used the terms "unfortunate" and "shocking" to describe the GN's current approach, said he felt the Hamlet of Kugluktuk was making headway with the previous territorial government.

Last June, former Health Minister George Hickes addressed long-term facilities in the legislature.

"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 at the time.

Hickes declined an interview Thursday to compare his position to that of the current government.

Kamingoak invited Angnakak to come to Kugluktuk to discuss the proposal. Angnakak said she would gladly accept, however she said she wouldn't be at liberty to discuss much detail about the Hamlet of Kugluktuk's plans if the request for proposals is in place.

"I wouldn’t want to cross any lines; just keep it fair for everybody," said Angnakak.