Nunavummiut are priority passengers when flying south for medical treatment but they should also be assured seats when they are due to fly home again, argues Tony Akoak, MLA for Gjoa Haven.
“They really want to go home. Would the government be able to ensure that they do get first priority to get home right away?” Akoak asked Health Minister George Hickes in the legislative assembly on Thursday. “With all the overcrowding in our (boarding) facilities, this would make sure that they don’t sleep in the living room or TV room.”
Hickes acknowledged that priority status for patients returning home is not condition of the GN’s contract with the airlines.
“I want our patients to go home as soon as possible too. Every day that they spend on travel costs the Government of Nunavut additional funds. Our priority is to get people home as quickly as possible,” the health minister said. “…but I will and we will continue to bring up how maybe the airlines would be able to voluntarily accommodate requests on a maybe
Hickes also recognized that overcrowding at boarding homes, which has been brought up a few times by MLAs during the fall sitting of the legislative assembly, can be a problem.
“When a flight departs, the boarding homes are anticipating those people not to come back. The planning and everything around that can create a lot of stress for the boarding home infrastructure. We do acknowledge that and we’re continuously working with our contractors to work around solutions,” he said. “If 20 people who left that morning show back up in the evening and those rooms were given out, it puts a lot of pressure on the boarding homes and the planning. We do a lot of planning with the boarding homes on when our specialists come in to access different levels of health care. When weather or a flight challenge throws a monkey wrench into that, it can be very complicated, but we do continue and we will continue to do our best to make sure that our patients get home as fast as possible.”