Nunavut communities not updated on swine flu
Municipal officials in Nunavut have major questions about the territorial government's handling of the swine flu pandemic, saying the Health Department has not kept them in the loop.
Senior administrators in several hamlets say parts of the territory's pandemic flu plan have not been implemented, such as having senior health officials communicate with them regularly about the outbreak.
"I was never notified directly, myself being the emergency management co-ordinator for the municipality, that there was an outbreak of H1N1 or swine flu," Paul Waye, senior administrative officer in Rankin Inlet, told CBC News.
As of Wednesday, Nunavut has 431 lab-confirmed cases of the H1N1 influenza virus since the first case was confirmed in late May. The virus has been responsible for one death to date.
50-plus cases in Rankin Inlet
Most cases have been reported in the territory's Kivalliq and Kitikmeot regions.
Rankin Inlet, located in the Kivalliq region, was one of the communities hardest hit by H1N1. Waye said there have been more than 50 cases in his community.
But Waye said it took more than a month for an official from the Department of Health and Social Services to notify the hamlet council about the pandemic.
"I first heard people coming into my office saying, 'Oh, swine flu must be here because there's people at the health centre wearing masks,'" he said.
Nunavut's pandemic flu plan, prepared three years ago, states that senior health officials must regularly communicate with senior administrators in all 25 communities when there is a pandemic.
Plan calls for local response strategies
The plan, a copy of which was obtained by CBC News through an access-to-information request, also says the territorial government must ensure all communities have specific pandemic flu response plans.
But that hasn't happened, said Ron Mongeau, senior administrative officer in the Baffin Island hamlet of Pangnirtung.
"To today, we have heard nothing from the Department of Health about their pandemic plans," Mongeau said, adding that the only information he has received to date comes from press releases and the local nursing station.
"We do not have a written pandemic flu plan in this community."
In Pond Inlet, senior administrative officer Mike Richards said a minor flu outbreak has already overwhelmed the local health centre, which is open only for emergencies.
Richards said he is concerned what might happen if another wave of swine flu hits the territory.
"We're as prepared as we can be, but we know if something does hit we're going to be overwhelmed immediately," he said.
Officials from the Department of Health are expected to comment Thursday.