Medical travellers stranded in Rankin Inlet

Nicole Nungnik was travelling from Baker Lake to Winnipeg with her son Thursday, Oct. 7, when she became stranded in Rankin Inlet between flights after a plane delay in the second leg of the trip.

Medical travel told her she had to seek her own accommodations, said Nungnik, at which point a Calm Air staffer offered she and her 17-month-old son a spot in a seacan for the night.

“That seacan does have power and couches but had a strong smell of diesel,” said Nungnik.

The seacan was heated but did not have a washroom, so anyone using it would have to walk to the airport to use the bathroom, said Nungnik.

“I posted on my Facebook that my son needed a bath for his bad eczema and a Facebook friend (Mary Susan Tapatai) showed her supervisor and told me an Agnico worker would pick me up and take me shopping for new clothing for us both,” said Nungnik, who took up the offer and was able to sleep in proper accommodations for her and her child.

But she wasn’t alone in being stranded, estimating there were eight to 10 people stuck in a similar position.

“I hope people travelling down south for medical have a place to stay in Rankin,” said Nungnik. “Seems like most communities from Nunavut pass through Rankin first.”

She added that medical travel needs a plan B for when local accommodations are not available.

Kivalliq News contacted the Department of Health for a response and further information related to this story Nov. 2.

By Nov. 11, the department had still been unable to provide a response.

“Unfortunately, we will not be able to provide this information prior to your deadline at this time as the Kivalliq regional office has been closed for maintenance and repairs,” wrote Danarae Sommerville, communications specialist with the department, Nov. 2.

On Nov. 7, Sommerville wrote that she was still following up with the regional office.

Baker Lake MLA Craig Simailak addressed the issue of travel delays for medical travellers in the legislative assembly Oct. 27.

“I was informed and am aware that many medical patients from Baker Lake were experiencing travel bottlenecks as people got stuck trying to return home. Last week as well as yesterday, passengers were forced to stay in Rankin Inlet, while trying to return home and we are aware of this issue,” he said through interpretation.

“My fellow MLA is also the Minister of Health, Mr. John Main, and I have continued to keep him apprised as alternative arrangements are being made related to this travel hiccup, and we haven’t forgotten them as we are trying hard to resolve the delayed travel arrangements, and we understand many patients are homesick. We and medical travel staff are working hard to ensure they return home.”

Stewart Burnett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kivalliq News