Gjoa Haven receives community's first ambulance

A community short on emergency vehicles, Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, received its first ambulance in the hamlet's history last month.

The hamlet made a bid for the ambulance years ago when it was made aware of extra vehicles in Quebec. The ambulance is used but in very good condition and  arrived via barge in August, said mayor Joanni Sallerina.

The ambulance arrived to the hamlet by barge from Northern Quebec, comes equipped with stretchers, and is already being used to transport elders who are sick and assist any patient in an emergency situation, said Sallerina.

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Before the arrival of the ambulance, the hamlet relied on community members and RCMP for assistance. They would transport sick and injured people from wherever they were to health centre, or to the airport for medevac services. 

Sometimes, they would need to use their fire truck.

"The fire truck is high and there's not too much room in the cockpit. So sometimes if they had to they would transport them on top [of the truck]," said Sallerina­.

Firefighters and other community members will be trained on how to operate the ambulance, said Sallerina, as well as given first aid training.

Other Nunavut communities need same resources, says mayor 

However, some communities in Nunavut still don't have the emergency response resources available to them, said Igloolik mayor Celestino Uyarak.

Uyarak said he's happy to hear Gjoa Haven had received their first ambulance. However, other small Northern communities like his 1,600 person hamlet are still left wanting.

"I'm very proud of the community of Gjoa Haven…. In fact I'm quite jealous," said Uyarak. "Igloolik will be requesting an ambulance as well, as that would help with our emergency services."

Smaller communities like Igloolik sometimes rely on vehicles owned by municipal governments to transport patients from health care at the medical centre to medevac services at the airport. Doing so puts the community at risk of liability if an accident were to happen," he said.

"If our vehicles accidently [crashes] and people get hurt, then we are liable for them," said Uyarak. "We don't have many resources except for ATVs."  

Getting an ambulance in the hamlet has been brought to the attention of Nunavut's territorial government. Uyarak added Igloolik hopes to get its first ambulance in the next five years.

Jane Sponagle/CBC

With files from Qavavao Peter, Michael Hugall