Head of Montreal hospital should assist Nunavik health board, province suggests

The province has suggested the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services (NRBHSS) collaborate with Pierre Gfeller, the current CEO of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). (MUHC)

To establish confidence in the Nunavik health-care system, Quebec’s Health Ministry has proposed that the region’s health board hire the current head of Montreal’s largest English hospital.

According to documents obtained by Radio-Canada through access to information, the province has suggested the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services (NRBHSS) collaborate with Pierre Gfeller, the current CEO of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC).

There have been widespread reports of mistrust between managers and administrators, while the NRBHSS struggles with crippling staff shortages. A dozen managers recently told Radio-Canada they had lost confidence in the board’s management.

In one document, Daniel Desharnais, the deputy health minister responsible for departmental co-ordination and institutional affairs, suggested bringing in Gfeller “to obtain results.”

Concerns about quality of service

Desharnais noted that since Health Minister Christian Dubé visited Nunavik in August, “despite the efforts of the NRBHSS,” the situation remains troubling.

“The information presented by the NRBHSS and the Inuulitsivik Health Centre to the crisis team … doesn’t allay the concerns of the Nunavik population regarding their health services,” Desharnais wrote.

The Inuulitsivik Health Centre in Puvirnituq in the province of Quebec. The centre serves the approximately 7,000 Nunavik residents on the Hudson Bay Coast. (Eilis Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

The deputy minister urged the leaders of the board to follow the recommendations of the Verreault-Dion report. The recommendations came after a 2020 investigation into allegations of financial impropriety and poor governance at the NRBHSS.

The office responsible for access to information requests declined to give Radio-Canada the Verreault-Dion report, saying the report was prepared on the behalf of the minister and was currently being used for decision-making purposes.

According to Desharnais, Dubé “hopes a collaboration between organizations, including the Inuulitsivik Health Centre, can contribute to a resolution to these issues and implementation of the recommendations from the investigation.”

In a statement, the Health Ministry said discussions were ongoing, but said the report was received with a “spirit of openness” by the administration in Nunavik.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Election Spotlight—Health Care in Nunavik, Eye on the Arctic

Greenland: Greenland to reduce services amidst staffing shortages in health care system, Eye on the Arctic

Julie Marceau, Radio-Canada

Journalist and traveler I have been working for 14 years at CBC/Radio-Canada, covering regional, national and international events for television, radio and online platforms. Born in the lovely city of Montreal I graduated from Université Laval (Québec) and Centre de Formation des Journalistes de Paris (CFPJ) in communication & journalism. I am also a passionate diver (Divemaster going on with PADI🐠).

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