Stable condition

by Jeff Colbourne
Northern News Services

IQALUIT (Jan 19/98) - The Baffin health-care community has seen tough times, but according to the chief executive officer of the Baffin Regional Health Board, the situation is improving in terms of medical services offered by doctors and nurses.

"Periodically, there have been problems in the past," said Ken MacRury. "Right now, we seem to be in a relatively stable situation in the communities."

Of the 32 nursing positions in the Baffin, five were vacant as of last week.

As for the Iqaluit hospital, MacRury said the staff has also been fairly consistent.

To catch up on settlement visits that may have been lost last year, they have overstaffed their board with doctors.

"We have a bunch of doctors travelling to the settlements next week," MacRury said Thursday. "We're in fairly good shape.

The board is also working on a comprehensive health-care recruitment system to give the board a reliable supply of doctors, general practitioners and nurses.

As the Baffin board continues to work toward improving medical services, it is seeking a service provider from the South.

Late last year, the board announced it was terminating its contract with Montreal's McGill University, which has provided specialist services to the region.

The board has received a new proposal from McGill and one from the Ottawa Heart Institute to fill the medical contract.

Baffin board gets facelift

Complicating things is high turnover. Over the last year, the Baffin regional health board saw many of its members pull up anchor and leave.

Board chair Anne Hanson resigned in early October. Her decision was announced during a heated debate between the board and Qikiqtaaluk Corporation over plans for a new hospital in Iqaluit.

The board wanted to know the cost of the hospital and details about what functions it will serve before going ahead with the project.

Qikiqtaaluk said if the board didn't act soon it would not get the facility.

The Baffin and Iqaluit chambers of commerce immediately called for the resignation of Baffin health board chief executive officer Pat Kermeen.

The chambers also turned to territorial Health Minister Kelvin Ng to push for her dismissal.

In a letter to Ng, Rhoda Arreak, president of Baffin chamber, said her members want Ng to "appoint a competent administrator charged with the task of entering into an agreement with QC immediately."

"There's not much time at all," said Arreak. "If there's no deal signed, like right now, we might lose the hospital. Everything else is in place, she said, but the construction part is still iffy."

In a press release, the chamber said it supports the construction of a hospital by Qikiqtaaluk for lease-back by the board or a 20-year lease-to-purchase deal. Any time during that 20-year period the board or a health foundation could buy out Qikiqtaaluk's interest for a price.

Kermeen stepped down two days after Dennis Patterson, a former NWT government leader, was named head the Baffin Regional Health Board.