This is page numbers 6757 – 6826 of the Hansard for the 17th Assembly, 5th Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was health.

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Motion 50-17(5): Medical Travel Policy, Carried
Motions

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Hawkins. To the motion. Mr. Blake.

Motion 50-17(5): Medical Travel Policy, Carried
Motions

Frederick Blake Jr. Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will be supporting the motion here today. I’m sure there are some challenges, but as the Member just mentioned, we’ve come a long way in medical travel in the last year and a half here. I’ve done a couple statements on this issue. We’re still having little issues with medical travel, elders that get approved for medical travel but when they go to the health centre the people that are working there basically tell them, oh, you’re okay, you don’t need an escort. I mean, that has to stop. If they’re authorized to take an escort, we need to ensure that their escort goes with them. That’s an issue I have here today.

As I mentioned, the department is doing a far better job than they were two years ago, and I’d like to commend them on that. Keep up the good work. Maybe it’s just in my riding. I’m not sure. I’m just kidding.

As I mentioned to the Minister, they’re doing far better than they were a while back. Keep that up and I hope that it only improves more in the next few years.

Motion 50-17(5): Medical Travel Policy, Carried
Motions

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Blake. To the motion. Mr. Dolynny.

Motion 50-17(5): Medical Travel Policy, Carried
Motions

Daryl Dolynny Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise in support of this motion, and I’d like to thank Mr. Yakeleya and Mr. Hawkins for bringing it forward.

First and foremost, we’re very thankful that the mover of this motion is here with us. We know he suffered a very traumatic injury and sustained injury, as well as his family. So on behalf of the Assembly, I want to make sure that we wish him well and much healing for him and his family.

It’s only when you go through yourself the trials and tribulations of pain, of injury, you can actually assess whether or not our health system is actually working for the people it serves. It’s a testament to our system. It’s a testament to the work of men and women who work for us.

I want to say, first and foremost, I’ve worked alongside the medical community for over two decades and we’ve got some great people who work in our health facilities and in our travel area, who do the booking and who work at health centres. I want them not to read into this as something that they’re doing wrong. It’s something that we can do better. I think I want to make that perfectly clear. We have made strides in medical travel but have we made the leaps and bounds to make sure that we’re actually there for the people we serve.

This motion has evolved tremendously over the last couple of days as this motion was discussed in the committee. We were looking at basically a no-ask policy first, and quite frankly, it didn’t garner the support of members, and we could see why. It would be too problematic. But it’s something to consider down the road.

I’m glad that the mover of the motion brought it to us today with more cognitive… He talks about impaired mobility and cognitive ability. Those are key attributes to which we need to be very cognizant. Because, as we heard earlier, everyone in this room, we hope, is of sound mind and body today. As I say, we hope. But when you’re in pain and you’re not firing on all cylinders, everything is magnified tenfold. You’re not able to think clearly. You’re not able to make that decision. You’re not able to make a phone call. You’re not able to hold a bag or even walk up a flight of stairs to get on a plane or take your bag off the rail. You’re not able to do those things, so having an escort, really, in essence, is a key attribute to the healing process. For whatever reason, this motion talks about very specifics in nature which I like, and I think we need to give consideration where consideration is due.

As well, it’s very pertinent for us to note that we’ve waited a very long time. When I say we, residents of the Northwest Territories, Members of this House, committee, and of course, the Auditor General of Canada. He’s still waiting too. He’s asked this government to act accordingly. The government of the day said, yup, we’ll do that. We’ll get on it and we’ll have it done by a certain date, and that’s actually documented for everyone to see. Well, of course, we’ve gone past that date. We’ve gone past that date many times. It’s unearthly to still hear stories to this day, and I can tell you, as a Member who has to listen to a patient or a constituent come in, the moment we know it’s an issue of medical travel, we all know we’re going to be there for a while. It’s not one issue that falls off the rails when it comes to medical travel. It’s a story, and it’s usually a cascade, it’s a myriad of issues, one after the other, to which you’re here as a Member and you try to help.

Now, of course, we put tools in place. We’ve got system navigators, and that’s a great move that the department did. But as I said, when you’re sitting there listening to a patient go through their story about what happened to them, you feel for that person. You go, geez, why couldn’t we have done something better? So this is one of those motions where it says why couldn’t we have done something better, why should we not do something to improve?

So, I really appreciate the motion for what it is. This is a very subtle nudge to the Minister to say you know what, don’t leave it on the backbench. Let’s tackle this issue. We know the Minister has approached committee. We know the Minister has talked about the bigger plans. I’m sure today he’ll share some specific details about where they’re going with medical travel and I’m hoping the public is able to understand where we’re going, should we get there sooner.

The motion talks about getting back to us in February of 2016. Hopefully, some of us are here, but I’m encouraging the Minister and the department, let’s not wait until February 2016. There are certain things we can do now. That’s what this motion says. Let’s do it now. We’ve been waiting years. Years.

So I want to leave you with this, I can go on at length with this because this is definitely up my alley, but I want to leave you with this here: You don’t get what you wish for, you get what you work for, and clearly we haven’t worked enough on this one. Thank you.

Motion 50-17(5): Medical Travel Policy, Carried
Motions

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Dolynny. To the motion. Mr. Nadli.

Motion 50-17(5): Medical Travel Policy, Carried
Motions

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’d like to thank the mover and the seconder for putting forward this motion. I support this motion.

One of the things that I kind of thought about, and hopefully this never happens, or perhaps maybe it actually has happened, is that the thought of an elder who has to be transported from another community and that elder is unilingual and is brought to a foreign place and that elder is left to their own vices, to fend for themselves to talk their way into a cab and to get to the hospital. You know, I would never want to see a circumstance like that, especially with an elder from a small community. Hopefully it doesn’t happen.

This motion ensures that likely in the future that those situations will not happen. That a lot of the policies and initiatives that this government puts forth we need to be culturally sensitive in terms of understanding the culture of businesspeople. At the same time, there are things that are needed, especially for elders, and this motion basically presents that.

So, with that, I support this motion. Mahsi.

Motion 50-17(5): Medical Travel Policy, Carried
Motions

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Nadli. To the motion. Ms. Bisaro.

Motion 50-17(5): Medical Travel Policy, Carried
Motions

Wendy Bisaro Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My comments will be brief. I appreciate the mover and the seconder for bringing the motion forward. As a member of the Standing Committee on Social Programs, I was party to an update from the department last month on what they are doing in regard to the Medical Travel Policy. As I understand it and remember from that update, they are in the process of developing recommendations around non-medical escorts. So my preference is to wait for that recommendation and that work to come from the department.

I agree with most of what is in the suggested motion, but I can’t say that I agree with absolutely everything. One of the conditions that is being suggested for a non-medical escort gives me some pause. I do agree, certainly, with consistent application of any policy, that’s an absolute, and I do agree with monitoring and evaluation of any policy, in this case the Medical Travel Policy.

So that said, I do not wish to vote against the motion, but I will be abstaining. Thank you.

Motion 50-17(5): Medical Travel Policy, Carried
Motions

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Ms. Bisaro. To the motion. Mr. Moses.

Motion 50-17(5): Medical Travel Policy, Carried
Motions

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’d like to thank the Members for bringing this motion forward. Medical travel is a big issue throughout the Northwest Territories, and as my colleague mentioned, standing committee did get a briefing last month as well as on Monday, October 5. The Minister did table a document, NWT Medical Travel Program, Patient Escort Supports Report on What We’ve Heard and it is mentioned that they are working on their recommendations that were developed out of that report.

We all know that medical travel, as we go through our business plans, averages out to over $30 million a year. Now the escort portion is over $5 million and when we break it down that’s over 13,000 medical travel patients every year. So we’ve got to find ways to do things better that can cut our costs, whether it’s providing more services to the regions, or ensuring that people get the proper treatment when they do go out, because I’m sure a lot of these costs are travel that’s repeated over and over.

With the report, I know there have been some concerns and some discussions talked about staff turnover as well as capacity issues in the regions and there’s nothing that we can do about that. All we can do is continue to provide support and try to help our patients get the right programs, the right treatment, the right services that they need. I know there’s been an appeals process that has been discussed and that the department is working on it. I know, as I mentioned at the onset of my comments, that this is something that we’ve been working on for the life of this government.

What else we’ve been hearing is that some cases, when it’s not approved, people are just paying for their own escorts and that is something that needs to be addressed, whether it’s an afterwards appeal process to get remuneration on the hotel, airfare costs, per diems for people who need assistance. So the first part of the motion that was brought before us in the House, I do believe it’s being worked on. During our presentation to standing committee, as well, if you look at the document that was tabled on Monday, it says they are working on a lot of recommendations in there. Whether this motion will speed up the process, as I mentioned there are capacity issues, staff turnover, that’s going to reflect that.

The second part of the motion here is to apply throughout all the regions, and recently over the summer we passed Bill 44, the Health Administrations Act, that’s going to assist in transformation throughout the Northwest Territories. They’re going to provide better services to regions that are having some of those issues with medical travel, as well as all health and social service concerns in terms of services and programs provided to residents. However, due to the fact that this medical travel concern is something that we’ve been talking about, the Auditor General has brought it up and standing committee is trying to stay on top of it, among the many other emerging priorities throughout the life of this government. I will support the motion just on the fact that it is still important and I’ve got to show my support of the importance that medical travel and the escorts for our most vulnerable, our youth, our elders and those who are described in the motion.

I do understand and I do think that the department is working on it right now. There are challenges. Whether or not this motion is going to speed up the process, I have to have faith in our departments and when the governance and system transformation comes through I think it’s also going to reflect on the services that are lacking in some of our regions that don’t have these services currently.

So I thank the mover and the seconder for bringing the motion forward and I will support it based on the fact that it is an important issue and we’ve got to protect our residents of the Northwest Territories. Thank you.

Motion 50-17(5): Medical Travel Policy, Carried
Motions

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Moses. To the motion, Mr. Bromley.

Motion 50-17(5): Medical Travel Policy, Carried
Motions

Bob Bromley Weledeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will be supporting the motion and I’d like to offer comments that might be classified or categorized as tentative support.

The motion calls for immediately introducing a policy change to ensure access to non-medical escorts for the patients with particular issues. Then again on the last furthermore that the government produce the report to these recommended actions for consideration by the House by February 2016, that’s almost five months from now. We know that this is being worked on since 2011. So I think that’s a healthy opportunity to help the interim or the new government to do its work and provide its response.

We did begin this work in the 16th Assembly and we’re somewhat frustrated that we didn’t make more progress there. It’s gone for the life of this Assembly and I know that the department is actively working on it. This is the message: please get it done.

Consistently applied is the second ask here. That’s something that I think everybody in the House can support and I certainly do.

The mechanism, calling for a mechanism for monitoring and evaluation, again, that’s a no-brainer. We need to do that with all of our policies, and this one in particular, as already noted by my colleagues, is a very significant policy for our residents and a very expensive policy. So we need to make sure that we stretch our dollars as much as we can. I know, in fact, that we have done a considerable amount of work on the Medical Travel Policy. We are working on this 24/7, on-call process, where doctors can be reached 24/7 by a community nurse. We know that we’re working on getting Electronic Medical Records in place so there’s accurate and ready information on patients to help assess their situation. We’ve established Telehealth with equipment and skills in every community in the Northwest Territories so we can create images of patients in their community immediately and with immediate results, and through our IT they can be transferred to the appropriate doctor or professional, again, for immediate consideration and evaluation. All those things should be helpful.

So, finally, I guess, I would note, I think it’s already been noted very straightforwardly, the more dollars we put into this the less dollars there will be for actual health care, so it’s a fine balance and there will always be a tension. It’s not an easy one to do but I think, you know, we’ve been at this for five years at least and we should be able to see some vast improvements. I’d like to see that summarized in place and presented to committee by February of ’16, as called for in this motion. I’ll be supporting it, and thanks to the mover and seconder. Mahsi.

Motion 50-17(5): Medical Travel Policy, Carried
Motions

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Bromley. Mr. Menicoche, to the motion.

Motion 50-17(5): Medical Travel Policy, Carried
Motions

October 7th, 2015

Kevin A. Menicoche Nahendeh

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I rise today, I’ll be supporting that motion. One of the things is that Members on this side of the House have been awaiting the review of the Medical Travel Policy and I’m sure the Minister will have heard that during his travels to all our constituencies that people raise concerns about medical travel. Even though this motion is quite specific and it may seem costly and expensive, but it’s just about that frustration of our people moving around and it’s another symbol that Members on this side of the House cannot wait for that review. But I think for me it only serves to let government know we’ve got to get this work done. We all know elections are coming and I’m sure that all the Members who will be running again as MLAs will certainly hear medical travel being heard.

Once again, the motion calls for three months’ time to start working on it. I know the bureaucracy is not running for re-election, so I would just let them know as they continue to work on the medical travel review that this particular portion be included as well. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Motion 50-17(5): Medical Travel Policy, Carried
Motions

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Menicoche. To the motion. Mr. Abernethy.