Larga Baffin, Ottawa

Larga Baffin, the Ottawa medical boarding home for Baffin Island Inuit took care of 172 patients and escorts last week. More than half stayed at a hotel as the four-storey building has only 81 beds. (courtesy of Lynn Kilabuk)

The medical boarding home for Inuit in the Baffin region in Ottawa has reached a new record level of overcapacity.

Last week, Larga Baffin took care of 172 patients, along with their medical escorts, who were sent to Ottawa for treatment. The four-storey building has only 81 beds, so more than half of those people were sent to stay at a Travelodge hotel, says the boarding home's president Lynn Kilabuk.

Kilabuk says the number of clients has been steadily increasing since the current building's expansion in 2009. She says overcapacity is a common issue at Larga Baffin and the organization's key shareholders, the Qikiqtaaluk and Nunasi Corporations, are looking for a solution. 

"We're currently looking for land or space to build a larger building," she said. 

Unilingual Inuktitut speakers and those who need more help are always kept at Larga Baffin, she said. Staff bring meals to people staying at the hotel and drivers take them to and from their appointments.

Kimmirut's Tommy Akavak has been back and forth to Larga Baffin several times over the past two years while his wife undergoes cancer treatments. He said he has noticed how busy the boarding home is but says the service is always good.

"They get picked up for their appointments, so they won't be late, get picked up after they see the doctor," he said in Inuktitut. "We are treated very well and most times there's country food available for patients."

Last week, Alan Cormack escorted his wife to Ottawa because of pregnancy complications. He says Larga Baffin wasn't what he expected.

"We should have a better place for sick people," he said. 

Kilabuk says with so many people in a confined space there will always be complaints.