Medical patients in Gjoa Haven will rarely have to rely on pickup truck or the fire truck for transport after the community took possession of its first ambulance, which arrived by sealift in September.

“We’re never had an ambulance in the community,” Mayor Joanni Sallerina said. “They were all volunteer’s vehicles. Whoever was closest to the accident – if it was a pickup truck or a van – or if there was nothing available then they would call the firefighters and the firefighters usually used the fire truck to transport the patient to the hospital.”

The used ambulance arrived from Quebec. The mayor was unsure of the price paid for the vehicle and how old it is. Those are details he said the senior administrative officer (SAO) would have, but the SAO was travelling last week and unavailable for comment.

Robert Alice Pootoogo stands alongside an ambulance that Gjoa Haven received via sealift in September, the first ambulance in the community’s history, according to Mayor Joanni Sallerina. Tamara Tarasoff photo.

The hamlet arranged for some local firefighters to receive training in how to operate the ambulance, said Sallerina.

“So it’s all ready to go,” he said.

Gjoa Haven hamlet council had expressed interest in acquiring an ambulance in the past but the municipality was in deficit recovery mode and therefore not in a position to afford the emergency vehicle until recently, said Sallerina, who’s serving his third term as mayor.

“We’re doing a lot better financially,” he said. “We were able to find a good vehicle at a reasonable price.”

The ambulance has caught the attention of Gjoa Haven residents, Sallerina noted.

“People have noticed and they’re excited about having it here,” he said.

Also excited are the volunteer firefighters who get to use it, along with Fire Chief Hector Nargyak.

“It’s pretty awesome,” he said. “They (the firefighters) were pretty happy about it when it came in.”

The fire hall has a two-bay garage and the new ambulance now occupies one of those bays, Nargyak added.

Neither the Department of Community and Government Services, nor the Department of Health, nor the Nunavut Association of Municipalities could account for the number of Nunavut communities that are still without a proper ambulance.

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