A second isolation hub has opened in Winnipeg to accommodate backlogged medical travel appointments. As of July 27, there are 170 rooms available for medical travellers, who are currently on the waiting list in Winnipeg, Premier Joe Savikataaq announced during a July 27 press conference.

The new hub was opened last week after the GN ruled out creating an isolation hub in Iqaluit.

It was “more cost effective” to create another isolation hub, says Health Minister George Hickes, during the July 27 press conference. Rajnesh Sharma/NNSL photo

When asked why Winnipeg was chosen above Iqaluit, Health Minister George Hickes responded, “Obviously our first choice is to keep people in isolation outside the territory before introducing it to our population here. And that was our preference right from the get-go.”

According to Hickes however, this does not mean the idea of a medical travel hub in Iqaluit is off the table. For now, the new Winnipeg hub is allowing the Government of Nunavut to deal with the medical travel backlog, he explained.

“So unless that changes in the next little while … I would say … it is always going to be on the table but it’s not in play right now,” said the minister.

It was “more cost effective” to create another isolation hub, said Hickes.

“If somebody were to fly down for a medical appointment, they could be there for two days … go for their medical appointment and then have a three week waiting period before even getting into the isolation hub. That would be on the Government of Nunavut to cover those costs,” he explained.

When medical travellers cannot be placed in an isolation hub, they are waiting for a spot to open while staying in a hotel or medical boarding home, said Hickes.

On July 19 the premier wrote on social media his isolation plan ensured “a spot was open at the Winnipeg hub for another traveller” and it would save public dollars. The premier, who had been self-isolating at his cabin near Arviat, made his first appearance this month at the press conference.

‘Very small’ percentage causing majority of problems
Hickes reiterated his concerns, from last week, about how the behaviour of some guests is impacting room availability at the isolation hubs. People who break their isolation have to restart the process, he stressed, adding those are rooms that would have been available for new guests.

A “very small” percentage of isolating guests are causing the “vast majority of issues” at isolation hubs, emphasized Hickes.

He believes in “some cases” mental health and addictions trigger the behaviour. “But, sometimes it’s just poor behaviour … lack of respect for fellow travelers,” said Hickes.

Qikiqtaaluk Corporation (QC), an Inuit organization, is now responsible for resolving any issues and providing direction to isolating guests on how to access mental health support. The goal is to have three staff members present at each of the hubs and provide service in Inuktitut.

At this time however, unlike the other hubs, the new isolation hub in Winnipeg is being run by the GN, not QC.

This week the GN will be providing country food to isolating guests at the Ottawa hub. The aim is to eventually provide country food three times a week at other isolation hubs as well.

There are still no Covid-19 cases in Nunavut. 225 persons are currently being investigated for Covid-19.

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