Editorial page

Friday, August 23, 2002
Fly-out hospital care cannot be tolerated

Imagine having a heart attack or a stroke in your Yellowknife home and the next thing you know you're being belted into a stretcher and lifted onto a nine-passenger King Air twin-engine aircraft for a two-and-a-half hour trip to the nearest Intensive Care Unit.

That's the reality facing all seriously-ill Northerners now that Stanton Territorial Hospital officials have announced the ICU won't be opening any time soon.

What's worse is this isn't the first ward to close, and as you can see in today's Yellowknifer it might not be the last.

Because of the lack of trained nursing staff, ICU has been closed since June.

Surgery, too, has remained closed since June. And now, because of staff shortages and pending resignations, hospital officials may have to reduce services on the 15-bed obstetrics unit.

But recruitment of nurses is not the only problem. Doctors and unit managers are also packing it in.

Surgeon Chris Blewett, a longtime Northerner who received specialized training in treating lung disease, packed up and moved south this spring.

Yellowknifer has learned the director of patient care, Joan Andrews, has also given her notice.

The manager of ICU is moving south, and the manager of the maternity ward left two months ago.

As long as the NWT continues to offer non-competitive wages to doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals, they will continue to find work elsewhere. It's that simple.

MLAs, who are now back from spending two days at a think-tank in Fort McPherson, must address this crisis.

If it takes a public meeting, let's have a public meeting. The doctors and nurses that remain at Stanton surely wouldn't mind offering their two cents, if politicians showed an interest.

The bottom line is we already have a fly-in, fly-out workforce because of the diamond mines. A fly-out health care system is clearly unacceptable.

Time to take responsibility

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

To pose the question, How low can you possibly go? to a group of young criminals may come across as somewhat rhetorical in nature to a good many people.

However, when one is talking about the repeated break and enters into the Deacon's Cupboard food bank in Rankin Inlet, the question, if nothing else, casts a harsh light on the path being chosen by too many of today's youth.

Crime, by its very nature, leaves a sour taste in the mouth of a community -- not to mention the increased cost in prices the rest of us pay to make up for the losses companies endure. That being said, stealing from those most in need has to rank among the most despicable acts of thievery in any community, no matter what the culprit's age.

On a similar note, more and more people in Rankin are growing increasingly frustrated by the number of ATV thefts in the community.

As in the case reported in this issue, many of these thefts are courtesy of youthful lawbreakers.

Many people have had grave concerns over the effectiveness of police in dealing with young offenders for quite some time now. That leaves but one area of recourse -- the parents.

If more parents are not going to willingly step up and take responsibility for the actions of their children, it could be time for the Nunavut government to look at ways of making that decision for them.

Mandatory parenting workshops, or local counselling sessions with both the adults and child present, could be two ways to start opening channels of effective communication between parents and siblings who find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

Regular workshops could be set up in communities for parents of these kids to attend. The assigning to, and regulating of, such workshops could be handled by the local justice committees, which, after all, were put in place to come up with alternative ways of dealing with first time and young offenders.

The bottom line is, a system needs to be put in place to encourage more parents to be concerned with the behaviour of their children. If that includes mandatory attendance for those parents who will not, or cannot, discipline or influence their children's behaviour, so be it.

It's time for some parents to realize there's more to being a family than simply living under the same roof.

As parents, we must accept the fact we have an obligation to our children to do the best we can in raising them to make the right choices in life and become productive members of our society. That means being there during the bad times as well as the good -- as painful as that can sometimes be.

Negotiated nightmare

Editorial Comment
Terry Halifax
Inuvik Drum

It's back to the drawing board for the Department of Public Works. It's like deja vu all over again for the Inuvik Campus of Aurora College.

I was up here two years ago when the project was bumped from being a P-3 project and now the construction is being bumped again because of this negotiated contract.

The process was flawed from the start by not opening the contract up to bid. These negotiated contracts are fine when the dollars are small and competition is slim, but the college contract is neither of those.

The GNWT has a strict policy for granting a negotiated contract. They are as follows:

- when the goods and services are urgently required.

- when only one party is capable of performing the contract.

- when the contract is an architectural or engineering contract worth not more than $25,000. A $10 million tax-funded project should have gone out to public tender.

Cabinet will bend the rules on negotiated contracts, and it's usually to help a fledgling aboriginal business get started.

The contractor awarded this contract is a joint-venture between Ketza Construction Corporation -- a well-established contractor in Alaska, Yukon and the NWT -- and the Gwich'in Development Corporation. By definition, GSA could be construed as an aboriginal business, but no means are they a fledgling business. Last year, the company had revenues of $3 million and they have access to $30 million in bonding capacity.

GSA construction has a great advantage already through the Business Incentive Plan, which offers local builders a 20 per cent advantage over outside competition. On a $10 million contract, that's about two million reasons why a local company could kill any outside bid. Through allowing outside bids, the government also gets a realistic comparison of what the job is really worth.

As it sits, they have one bid and an estimator crunching numbers on a computer in Yellowknife. Not a fair comparison and not a fair use of tax dollars.

The negotiated contract does little to foster growth of a business if it cannot make that business competitive. If a contractor loses a contract, they need to know how and why their estimation could have been improved. Now, the bid will go out to tender and the GSA will still get it, but the delay will have cost the students a year in a real school and the taxpayers a few more million. Hardly a fair deal for the students, the contractors or the taxpayers.

Happy Valley views

Town council made it pretty clear last week that the seniors development in Happy Valley Campground will not be approved. Seems there was a lot of miscommunication in the proposal stages of this fiasco that could have saved a lot of time, money and hurt feelings if the people knew what they were getting from the start. Council, the Inuvialuit Community Corporation and the seniors all had the impression they were approving a facility with a common room and central meeting area where tourists could visit with elders. What was proposed by the housing corporation was what we'd all feared from the start -- another trademark cracker box housing project.

What was made clear throughout the multiple meetings, is that the Town of Inuvik needs to take a good look at how this town will grow over the next 10, 20 or 30 years.

Heed the warning

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

Renewable Resources officer Carl Lafferty issues a timely warning to all Deh Cho residents this week. It's human nature to be curious when a bear is lurking in the neighbourhood. However, the flashing lights on an renewable resources truck are not a signal for the entire neighbourhood to wander over to check out the scene. The opposite applies -- the lights are an indication of danger.

Just as so-called rubberneckers can cause additional wreckage at accident scenes, people who attempt to get a peak at a cornered bear are risking injury and possibly death. Although large and strong creatures, bears are also remarkably swift. Wounded bears pose a severe menace.

Bears that stroll into town looking for food may be out of their element, but we still exercise caution. Equally, Renewable Resources officers who are employed to contend with the threat of a bear should be given the respect and the room they need to do their jobs.

Walking the walk

Kudos to the Fort Simpson Parks and Playground Society for spurring action at what used to be Elephant Park. A similar story of aging and dangerous equipment has been unfolding at a playground in Yellowknife, but the difference is that parents there haven't formed a proactive group. Instead, they have spoken out individually. While condemning government, be it local, territorial or federal, may make people feel better, it often doesn't accomplish much.

When the chips are down, we need concerned citizens to come together with a plan of action, particularly for the sake of local children. Once they demonstrate that they are serious, particularly by donating their time to raising funds, those in a position of power are more likely to sit up and take notice.

It worked in Fort Simpson. The kids' faces prove it.

Grumble, grumble

While complaining about the weather is the unofficial national pastime, we Northerners have a legitimate gripe this summer: we haven't received much warm weather. Mother Nature seems to be playing a cruel joke. Winter was reluctant to loosen its grip as snow fell even in late May. June only warmed up slightly. July brought the occasional hot day (too hot isn't appreciated either, of course) but for the most part, July and August have been a bust.

With leaves turning yellow, an early frost and flocks of geese already making their way south, we can only hope for a late burst of warm weather and something we didn't really get our share of -- summer.