A committee of the legislative assembly convened in Hay River last week talking about amendments to the health system in the NWT that would see all regions in the territory come under one health authority — a so-called super board.
Most attendees at the meeting Tuesday night were employees of the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority and were concerned, saying there were many unanswered questions regarding Bill 44: An Act to Amend the Hospital Insurance and Health and Social Administration Act.
“People aren’t eager to jump into something when we don’t know what’s on the other side for us,” said Heather Coakwell, the Union of Northern Workers’ representative for the authority.
She and others listed concerns over the need to provide more services to surrounding communities and the possibility of having to do so without additional resources, questions over pensions and seniority, as well as other problems stemming from the fact that unlike every other authority in the NWT, Hay River authority employees are not also employees of the GNWT.
“I know everyone here wants the best for our patients and the community,” Coakwell said.
More than anything, Coakwell asked that authority employees be directly involved in the conversation moving forward, as opposed to through union bosses in Yellowknife as has recently been the case. She called for Hay Riverites to be included in negotiations and an end to “third-hand” information.
“We would like to be a part of it,” she said. “These are our people, and we need to know.”
Others were worried the GNWT would proceed, eventually passing the proposed legislation, whether or not Hay River gets on board.
“Let’s say this happens, and you could be voting on it in the next few months, and Hay River isn’t a part of it at that point, how do we have a seat at the table?” asked Wally Schumann. “There need to be provisions for Hay River to have input.”
Members of the committee chaired by Inuvik Boot Lake MLA Alfred Moses assured those in attendance that the bill, even if passed, had no hard deadline set for implementation. Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen agreed, but did say there were currently too many questions left unanswered.
“We may have been remiss in our just taking these ‘I don’t know’ answers,” she said. “We’ve maybe had blind faith that things will work out for the best.”