North

Poor planning of medical travel is costing the government, says Nunavut MLA

Nunavut MLA Patterk Netser says he wants to see a review of the government’s medical travel policy after hearing from constituents who say they've flown down south, only to find they have no appointments.

Patterk Netser has heard from constituents who've flown south to find they don't have an appointment

Patterk Netser says he plans to ask for a review of the government's medical travel policy in the next sitting of the Legislative Assembly in March. (Courtesy Patterk Netser)

Nunavut MLA Patterk Netser says he wants to see a review of the government's medical travel policy after hearing about disorganization within the Health Department from constituents.

Netser was elected to represent Coral Harbour and Naujaat and since taking office he says he's heard from at least three constituents who've run into organizational problems when they were sent to a southern hospital for treatment.

Some, he says, arrive down South and find they don't have an appointment scheduled, so they are "down there for nothing."

In one incident, Netser says a woman from Naujaat was flown by the government on a milk run flight to Rankin Inlet, but was stopped in Coral Harbour when it was discovered she didn't actually have an appointment scheduled in Winnipeg for when they were sending her.

She would have had to spend the weekend in Coral Harbour before returning home, but Netser says Calm Air allowed her to continue to Rankin, where she had some family to stay with.

The Larga Baffin residence for Nunavut medical patients in Ottawa. Similar residences exist in Iqaluit, Winnipeg, Yellowknife and Edmonton. (CBC)

This is not only an inconvenience for patients, Netser says, but also an unnecessary expense for the government.

"From here to Winnipeg a one-way ticket is about $2,000 dollars, so you do the math. Some people go down with medical escorts, so that's $4,000, at least, plus their stay down in Winnipeg and they find out that they have no appointment. That's a lot of money wasted."

No appointments, unnecessary flights

Netser says he met a man in Winnipeg who was told he was supposed to return home a day after his treatment was completed, but Netser says when the man arrived at the airport, his name was not on the airplane manifest.

"This is an ongoing problem, people sit in Winnipeg, in these medical centres for days on end waiting to go home."

Netser says it took several days for the man to work with the government to get a flight home, while the government covered his lodging. 

"People are angry, they want to get home, they want to get to work, they lose their sick leave benefits because the system is not working properly," Netser said.

He says he plans to ask for a review during the next sitting of the Legislative Assembly in March.

The review would look at communication gaps in the organization of medical travel and how to address them.

Due to the holidays, nobody was available from the Nunavut Health Department to respond. 

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