Nunavut gov't and NTI sign deal to share info on tuberculosis

Nunavut Health Minister John Main, left, and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated president Aluki Kotierk speak at a news conference on Monday. (David Gunn/CBC - image credit)
Nunavut Health Minister John Main, left, and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated president Aluki Kotierk speak at a news conference on Monday. (David Gunn/CBC - image credit)

The Nunavut government will now be required to share information on tuberculosis numbers with Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI).

That's part of an information-sharing agreement signed by Health Minister John Main and NTI president Aluki Kotierk Monday.

The agreement outlines what kind of information and how often the Nunavut government needs to report information on tuberculosis to the Inuit organization.

A Monday news release stated that the government will give NTI territorial, regional and community-level data on active and latent tuberculosis. It will also notify NTI of outbreaks and share "defined and relevant disease data publicly."

The agreement also states NTI will make progress on a national action plan to eliminate tuberculosis, provide updates, and allocate funding for a regional action plan.

The organization also said it will host its online tuberculosis training course for the public.

The release said the agreement will protect people's personal health information.

NTI, which gets funding from the federal government to address Inuit-specific tuberculosis, said the information-sharing will better help inform the organization on where they can put resources to combat the spread of the disease.

"Through the signing of this information-sharing agreement, we'll have better information about where … there are outbreaks of tuberculosis, which will put us in a better position to provide supports that are non-clinical," Kotierk said.

As an example, Kotierk said that includes providing wellness hampers to households that have tuberculosis so that they can remain at home.

Main said to deal with tuberculosis, resources from many organizations are needed.

"The key reason for this agreement is to bring the Department of Health and Nunavut Tunngavik closer together in terms of this shared issue that we are facing," Main said.

"It's a serious issue. It is very concerning that the prevalence of tuberculosis in Nunavut is so unacceptably high and continues to be."

Main said the implementation will start immediately, but in terms of public reporting, there won't be any immediate changes.

"It's possible that there will be changes made in the future, but immediately there aren't any changes that will be seen as a result of this agreement."

Number of diagnoses on the rise

Nunavut Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said the agreement contains a clause that requires both parties to negotiate which information will be publicly reported "that will improve transparency both in terms of numbers of individuals with TB," and other "indicators of quality of care."

"That's one of those things that will start probably in the very near future once we have provided the background information of the current situation," Patterson said.

Patterson said the number of people being diagnosed with tuberculosis in Nunavut is rising.

Pangnirtung has been dealing with spreading tuberculosis, with the territory declaring an outbreak there in November 2021. The territory also warned in August that the disease was continuing to spread there.

"The remainder of communities, the numbers are a little bit higher than we had seen in 2020 and 2021," Patterson said.

"Part of that is the return to more increased tuberculosis investigations with less emphasis on COVID as we shift resources — and that's a worldwide phenomenon."

In September, Nunavut's health department announced it was working on a new model for sharing information about tuberculosis cases across the territory. At the time, it said it would do this by providing breakdowns for the age and gender of patients.