Two people who went through self-isolation at one of the GN-approved hotels in the south say the facility is poorly maintained.
One Nunavummiuq, who requested anonymity, said cleanliness was lacking and food in unsealed Styrofoam containers was routinely placed on a carpeted floor in the hallway and sometimes left there for hours. She also insists that masks and disposable gloves should be issued to guests of these facilities.
She said she saw instances where social distancing was not practised, people were coughing openly and plenty of occasions when other guests were spitting outside the hotel, particularly in designated smoking areas, where she said up to 10 people gather at a time. As someone who suffers from asthma and allergies, putting her at higher risk if she were to be infected with the virus, the experience left her constantly worried about catching Covid-19 from others lodged in the Ottawa facility.
After checking in, she said she found her room to be repulsive due to food stains, visible fingerprints on the walls and curtains, blood in the toilet, her tub was black and there was pubic hair in the refrigerator door.
“I’m not exaggerating,” she said. “They’re rushing to get people in here. It’s not hygiene at all. It’s almost like it’s making us higher risk to be here.”
Even though she was successful in getting hotel cleaning staff to come back into her room to do additional work, she still spent 4.5 hours more cleaning it herself, she said.
“It was so filthy,” she said. “I said to the nurse, ‘This is not safe. This is supposed to be safe.’… I was told (by a hotel manager) if I don’t like it to leave.”
Another hotel guest, who also wanted his name withheld, said the building didn’t have a single bottle of hand sanitizer available for guests or staff.
“There’s plenty of companies in Canada mass producing hand sanitizer. There is no excuse not to have any if you’re government,” he said.
He noted that hotel staff and security guards were not wearing masks; some staff wore the same gloves inside and outside while sometimes touching guests’ doors and doorknobs; and they didn’t always maintain proper distance from one another.
“Security and hotel staff are clearly not trained for this,” he said.
The hotel isn’t exclusively for those in isolation. There are other guests from outside Nunavut coming and going, according to the complainant, and they get into the same elevators with those in isolation.
“Preventative safety measures are only going to deteriorate from here because negligence will increase with time as you are not supervising this properly,” he warned. “Going to Dollarama is safer than entering this building. You have been very lucky so far to keep Covid-19 out of this building.”
The female guest said she requested some masks and disposable gloves at the hotel but she was told she would only be given a mask upon leaving to board a flight to Nunavut.
“Something has to be done. I wish the MLA could come here himself and see how we’re treated,” she said, adding that there are no interpreters or Inuktitut translations available on site. “I feel sorry for the other people that don’t even really understand English… I feel like I’m in jail… the way we’re treated here, it’s very, very sad.”
Guests are allowed outside for 30-45 minutes per day and are permitted to walk around the block for a little exercise, she noted.
Improvements made, says GN
The Government of Nunavut sent a statement to Nunavut News indicating that it has been “working toward continuous quality improvement at the isolation hubs.”
GN staff members travelled to isolation hubs in Ottawa, Winnipeg and Yellowknife on April 26 to improve service, according to the Department of Health.
“This work will be ongoing as needed,” the statement read. “Our goal is to provide the most safe and pleasant guest experience possible while they maintain strict isolation.”
As of May 8, there were seven formal complaints filed with the Office of Patient Relations, six of which have been resolved, including food quality and quantity, according to the GN.
In regards to masks and gloves, they are not “typically recommended or routinely necessary in a residential setting such as a home or a hotel where healthy people without symptoms are physically distanced from those outside of their immediate circle,” the territorial government stated. “Non-medical masks can be considered for the general public in settings where physical distancing is not possible, such as a grocery store or pharmacy.”
Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main said he has heard complaints from a constituent about the food served at the Winnipeg Hilton. However, he credited the Government of Nunavut for adopting the strict southern isolation measures to protect Nunavummiut, even though it’s a trying process for those who are locked down for 14 days. He also noted that the hotels chosen as isolation hubs are of good quality overall.
“The question is how can we make this thing better, just like any other health-care service,” Main said.
Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak and Tununiq MLA David Qamaniq said they have not been contacted by any constituents about issues in hotels designated for isolation.
“I think it’s been very hard on families who have no choice but to be in the south,” Angnakak stated.
The Government of Nunavut recently disclosed that, as of May 6, close to $4 million had been spent on room and board for 1,022 Nunavummiut in the isolation hubs located in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Yellowknife.