Elder from Arctic Bay calls for more housing for patients in Iqaluit

An elder from Arctic Bay, Nunavut, is raising concerns about the availability of rooms for people travelling to Iqaluit for medical care after waiting hours to get a hotel room.

Tommy Tattatuapik rested on a thin mat while waiting several hours to get a hotel room

Tommy Tatatuapik says it was frustrating to arrive in Iqaluit to find that no rooms were available at the Tammaativik boarding home. (Submitted by Tommy Tattatuapik)

An elder from Arctic Bay, Nunavut, is raising concerns about the availability of rooms for people travelling to Iqaluit for medical care after waiting hours to get a hotel room.

Tommy Tattatuapik travelled to Nunavut's capital in May for medical reasons with his son-in-law Jimmy Eetuk as an escort.

Tattatuapik said they began their journey in Arctic Bay at 7:30 a.m., arriving in Pond Inlet on the milk run by 9 a.m. and then landing in Iqaluit just before 1 p.m.

But when they arrived at the Tammaativik boarding home, he said, all of the rooms were full, and it wasn't until 5 or 6 p.m. that they were able to get a room at the Frobisher Inn.

Jimmy Eeutuk, who flew to Iqaluit to escort his father-in-law, rested on the floor of the boarding home while they waited for a room at a hotel. (Submitted by Tommy Tattatuapik)

The pair had supper at the boarding home around 5 p.m. and Tattatuapik said due to his illness he became tired and cold and asked that a bed be set up in the living room while they waited for a room. He was given a thin mat on the floor to rest.

"I cannot sit on a hard surface for a long period of time due to my legs, and I got really exhausted," he explained in Inuktitut.

Eetuk layed down on the bare floor.

Nunavut Health Minister Pat Angnakak said they are working on addressing the overcrowding issue at the boarding home. (Vincent Desrosiers/CBC)

Tattatuapik said he didn't feel welcome at the boarding home after repeatedly asking if any rooms had become available.

"When you are sick, and having to wait, especially when you cannot stand or sit for too long because of the disability too, it is tiring having to wait when you are having to go to the hospital," he said.

The boarding home has 125 beds. The Nova Group owns and operates the Tammaativvik boarding home through a contract with the Government of Nunavut. The company subcontracted the Pairijait Tigumivik Society, an elders' group, to run the day-to-day operations of the facility, according to the health department.

Tattatuapik said they are constantly filled by people and escorts travelling to Iqaluit for short-term medical care.

Overcrowding an ongoing issue

Nunavut Health Minister Pat Angnakak said the boarding home has been facing overcrowding "on and off" for quite some time.

She said the issue worsened after the federal government allowed people coming to Iqaluit to give birth to travel with escorts, because having to house more people exacerbates lack of hotels in the community.

Angnakak said the department is trying to find ways to room more patients in Iqaluit.

That has included approaching federal Minister of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott about increasing the billet price per night. It's currently set at $50 and will go up to $202, according to a spokesperson for Indigenous Services Canada.

"Fortunately the minister agreed, and so we're just in the process now of setting up the policy and the program, just to make sure we have everything right," she said.

Angnakak said she also wants the government to start planning for the next five to 10 years, toward a goal of eventually offering more Nunavummiut care closer to home.​


  • A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the federal Department of Indigenous Services Canada ran the Tammaativik boarding home.
    Jul 11, 2018 2:23 PM CT

With files from Salome Avva, Michael Salomonie, Emily Blake and Toby Otak