August 2011 – The Government of Nunavut is considering a comprehensive review of its medical travel policy, health minister Tagak Curley said March 2 in the Nunavut legislature.
Nunavut’s medical travel program has been “very generous, probably over-generous,” Curkey said. But this may change, especially with respect to escorts for unilingual Nunavummiut, he suggested.
That’s because now that all patient services located outside Nunavut, in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Yellowknife, have interpreters on staff, unilingual Inuit may not need escorts to assist them.
The situation has changed since the tuberculosis epidemic of the 1950s, he said.
“When our parents or relatives went out, it appeared to many of us as though they had left the face of the earth, as far as I’m concerned. We didn’t know where they went. We never had any contact with them. They never had any interpreters or what-not. Nowadays, it’s a very different world altogether,” he said.
In light of new legislation that says by September 2012 all Nunavummiut will have the right to receive service in the language of their choice, separate medical travel policies for unilingual Nunavummiut could come up for review.
“It appears that it’s something that we’re going to have to take seriously because it’s getting quite costly to be so generous when, in fact, at the other end of the destination, there is an interpreter there,” Curley said.
Politicians have already suggested that medical travel — where the department wants $5.4 million in funds more this year — is a place to look for cuts.
Nearly 40 per cent of the health department’s budget is spent on the travel and accommodation of escorts.