Empty house
Political changes brought change of heart, says man proposing Ottawa boarding home

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

IQALUIT (July 12/99) - The man trying to establish a new boarding home for Baffin residents travelling to Ottawa for medical treatment says the changing political landscape in Nunavut has left him in the lurch.

"About three years ago we heard there was a plan to move (medical treatment for Baffin residents) from Montreal to Ottawa," said Bill Davidson, president of Larga-Baffin. "At that time we sent a letter to the health board saying we can supply this (boarding) service."

Davidson said that was long before the board had contracted Ottawa Health Services Network Inc. to take care of the logistical, medical and boarding arrangements for Baffin residents travelling to Ottawa for medical treatment.

"The response at that time was pretty positive and it was at that time that we started looking around for a building. Since then, all the players in Iqaluit have changed...and we don't have a contract."

The home is a joint venture between Nunasi Corp. and the Qikitaaluk Corp. It was renovated over a 10-month period by the Larga Corp, a private business. Another company, called Larga-Baffin was established to operate the home.

Davidson said Larga-Baffin is currently negotiating with OHSNI to provide a place to stay for Northerners travelling south for non-medical reasons.

OHSNI board member and vice-president of finance Karen Meades said her organization is not in negotiation with Baffin-Larga.

"The last time I spoke with Mr. Davidson was 18 months ago," said Meades. "He offered his company's services at that time and I said we were quite happy with the services we were getting."

OHSNI boards patients at the Rotel, owned by the Rotary Club of Ottawa.

"It's more of a casual relationship than a firm contract," said Meades of the arrangement with Rotel.

"We've been very pleased with them and the service they've provided," said Meades. "We're also very pleased with the cost."

Meades said using Rotel, OHSNI, a not-for-profit organization founded in October 1997, provides housing, food, ground transportation, arranges medical appointments for the $124 per day the federal government provides for non-insured health benefits.

Asked if his home would cost the Nunavut health care system any more than the present arrangement, Davidson replied, "Not at all. Not one cent."

Davidson said the Larga-Baffin facility, with communal spaces and a games room and kitchen, would provide a more home-like environment than a hotel.

Larga established and operates similar boarding homes in Edmonton and Winnipeg.

Meades said OHSNI is anticipating no changes to the current arrangement.

"Quite simply, we will keep to the letter of the contract we have with the Baffin health and social services board," she said.

The contract runs until March 31, 2001.

Getting a government contract has not been the only problem the Larga-Baffin home has encountered.

As of last Thursday, it had yet to get final approval to operate from the City of Ottawa.

The property has been rezoned, from residential to rooming house, but alterations need to be made to meet fire code, said City of Ottawa chief building inspector Neil Dillon.

Davidson said his company had submitted drawings of the changes for approval by the city last week.

"We need to put in two more doors to meet the requirements so we can open it."

Dillon said he believed the home had not yet submitted $6,000 to the city as payment in lieu of park space.