This is page numbers 4777 - 4802 of the Hansard for the 18th Assembly, 3rd 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 strike. View the webstream of the day's session.

Topics

Question 533-18(3): Medical Travel
Oral Questions

Page 4781

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, recently, actually probably ever since I have been elected, I have had a number of constituents come to me and ask questions about medical travel. I have been trying to get the information out there as best as I can. Sometimes, I may not be doing it properly. I will have some questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services. The first question I have is: there seem to be some different forms of medical travel. Can the Minister please explain how GNWT staff have a different per diem rate than non-insured residents? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 533-18(3): Medical Travel
Oral Questions

Page 4781

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Question 533-18(3): Medical Travel
Oral Questions

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Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, medical travel is not an insured service under the NWT healthcare plan. The GNWT provides medical travel benefits through Medical Travel Policy to eligible residents if they have no other sources of benefits in an effort to ensure that transportation expenses are not an economic barrier to accessing ensured health services. However, the Medical Travel Policy is only one of many policies and insurance plans that provide medical travel benefits to residents throughout the Northwest Territories. When patients are eligible for benefits through an employer or third party, those benefits must take precedence over the GNWT's medical travel plans.

With respect to the GNWT employees, GNWT employees have a negotiated benefit called Medical Travel that provides terms and conditions that determine how much individuals get when they travel on medical travel. They are not covered by GNWT medical travel. They are covered by an employee benefit. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 533-18(3): Medical Travel
Oral Questions

Page 4781

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

I greatly appreciate the Minister's answer. It helps to clear up a little bit more as we move forward. I have noticed, though, that the federal government medical travel differs from the GNWT medical travel. Is there a reason that ours is different than that? If there is, can the Minister explain why the differences are?

Question 533-18(3): Medical Travel
Oral Questions

Page 4781

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

As I indicated, medical travel is not an insured service under the NWT's healthcare plan, and if an employer has a benefit, those benefits will take precedence. The federal government does have a benefit program around medical travel. Theirs will take priority over the GNWT plan. Many of our residents have access to medical travel benefits through their employer, whether it is the federal government or the GNWT, private businesses.

Employer benefits generally surpass the benefits offered under the Medical Travel Policy and are subject to different decision-making criteria, which are dictated by the employer in the plan that is in front of them, usually through the collective agreement or policy documents or purchased through third-party providers. Those employers have a program. The employees are to use those programs. If the employer doesn't have a program, then they can come to the GNWT program.

Question 533-18(3): Medical Travel
Oral Questions

Page 4781

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you to the Minister for his answer. It is my understanding through federal employees and their families that they have to pay for their costs for their hotels, their per diem, up front for medical travel. Is there a possibility that the government can cover these costs and get reimbursed through vouchers from the federal government instead of having the families foot these costs?

Question 533-18(3): Medical Travel
Oral Questions

Page 4781

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Mr. Speaker, many employers such as the federal government authorize and coordinate travel from within their organization for their employees or their dependents to ensure that their benefits are applied as intended. In such cases, the Territorial Authority Medical Travel office does not have any involvement in their travel, does not process any of their authorizations, or have knowledge of their travel plans.

It is possible that a person may receive employer travel benefits but not actually qualify for coverage under our own medical travel policy. However, the NWT Health and Social Services Authority Medical Travel office does not have the authority to interpret collective agreements or administer benefits on behalf of an employer or other third-party insurers. I know some employers actually provide the opportunity to provide travel advances. We don't dictate, we don't control, we don't even approve medical travel for some of the third-party providers, so we would not be in a position to fund in advance because we have a completely different program.

The short answer on this one, Mr. Speaker, is: no, we don't.

Question 533-18(3): Medical Travel
Oral Questions

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Oral questions. Member for Nahendeh.

Question 533-18(3): Medical Travel
Oral Questions

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Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would hope that we could be able to do something, but I understand we are dealing with different benefits there. Previously in this House the Minister has talked about the Medical Travel Policy being reviewed. Can the Minister please advise what the status of this Medical Travel Policy review is? The status of it right now. Thank you.

Question 533-18(3): Medical Travel
Oral Questions

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Glen Abernethy Great Slave

I met with committee last October to provide a bit of an update on the Medical Travel Policy review and to get feedback and advice from the committee members to help inform the final changes that need to be made. The feedback from committee was received in November. Thank you very much for getting that to us. We are working to revise the policies. It has already started. These policy revisions will be completed this spring in 2019 with the intent to implement the changes during the remaining months of this term. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 533-18(3): Medical Travel
Oral Questions

Page 4781

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Oral questions. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Question 534-18(3): Health Information Privacy Breaches
Oral Questions

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Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marci cho, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, in my Member's statement I talked about the breaches that we have been hearing about now and then with the Health and Social Services system. I would like to ask the Minister what has been done to put safeguards in place to prevent future breaches. Thank you.

Question 534-18(3): Health Information Privacy Breaches
Oral Questions

Page 4781

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Question 534-18(3): Health Information Privacy Breaches
Oral Questions

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Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the honourable Member from Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh and I came into this Assembly at the same time in October 27, 2007. In 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012, we received reports from the Privacy Commissioner who said this government badly needs a Health Information Act. In 2013, when the Member was the honourable Health Minister, he moved and did first and second reading of the Health Information Act, which was passed in 2014 when I was a Minister. This act is a huge step in the right direction. Prior to this act, the only time health and information breaches became public is when things happened to be faxed to media and they did not escalate to the degree that they did.

Since the Health Information Act has come in, we have an obligation and responsibility to train staff to provide indication to our residents when there are breaches, to notify those affected. We have been able to learn from each of the breaches that has occurred. We are continuing to make improvements.

In 2015, when the act went live, we came up with a health information guidance manual. Based on what we have heard and what we are learned from these breaches, we are doing a major upgrade to that progress manual, the compliance manual. We are continuing to train staff, and we will continue to do so.

I understand one of the committees recently had a meeting with the Privacy Commissioner on her report. I'm looking forward to any more recommendations that come out of that, so that we can continue to work together to strengthen our response to privacy breaches and make sure that our public is informed and breaches are not occurring. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 534-18(3): Health Information Privacy Breaches
Oral Questions

Page 4782

Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Mr. Speaker, the Health and Social Services system is huge, as we all know. There are hundreds of employees, maybe 1,500, 1,600 employees. I would like to ask the Minister if there are designated employees only who handle confidential health records.