MLAs are hearing from people willing to act as medical escorts who are rejected right away by the medical travel division, says Aggu MLA Paul Quassa.

Even patients requiring major surgery are sometimes being denied medical escorts, says Aggu MLA Paul Quassa. photo courtesy of the legislative assembly

“Sometimes an escort is refused for someone who has to go to the hospital to have major work done on them like surgery and so on,” Quassa said in the legislative assembly on Thursday while questioning Health Minister George Hickes. “Do you agree that things need to be changed?… Is your department going to be looking at other ways to improve this situation?”

Hickes described the circumstances as “very complicated.” Close to 40 per cent of the medical travel budget is spent on escorts, the health minister said. Insured medical travel cost the GN $92.5 million overall in 2018-19.

“We are continuously over in our budget expectations and forecasting for medical travel,” said Hickes. “We have to be very cognizant of how often and under what conditions we are sending medical escorts out.

“That being said, where there is a clinical need identified, typically escorts are approved,” he added. “(Clients) can contact patient relations directly to appeal any escort decisions that are made. I do strongly recommend that if anyone has a concern, they act on it right away.”

Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk spoke in favour of expanding midwifery. He said it would be a “win-win” because it would provide more local jobs and reduce the demand for medical travel by pregnant mothers and escorts.

There are currently 10 midwifery positions across the territory, but not all of them are filled right now. Hickes agreed that he’d like to see the program grow.

 

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Derek Neary has been reporting on developments in the North for 18 years. When he's not writing for Nunavut News, he's working on Northern News Services' special publications such as Opportunities North,...