Nunavut will get $35.6 million over the next several years from the federal government to support health care services and elder care in the territory. 

Federal Health Minister Mark Holland made the announcement in Iqaluit on Tuesday on his first visit to the territory. 

Holland and Nunavut Health Minister John Main signed two agreements. 

The first is a $23.6-million deal over three years to help recruit Inuit to health care positions, including radiological technicians, nurses and paramedics, and to increase the number of health care staff in the territory generally. 

The money will also go toward the new obstetrics-gynecology program at the Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit. 

Additionally, the money will help enrol five Inuit in a midwifery training program. 

“The path forward is, unquestionably, in empowering local communities, making sure that services are provided in people’s homes,” Holland said at a press conference. 

The first deal also promises to purchase a CT scanner, a portable MRI and a C-Arm to increase in-territory medical procedures and reduce the the number of patients who need to travel to Ottawa for those procedures.

Holland said about 150 people a year leave Nunavut to get an MRI scan. 

“To have to go so far away to get the health care that you need, and to worry about your loved ones and to be away from all of that, is devastating,” Holland said. 

The second deal is $12 million over five years for elder care in the territory. 

A man stands at a podium
Nunavut Health Minister John Main said the territory still has a long way to go fix health care gaps. (David Gunn/CBC )

It will go toward increasing the number of Inuit who work in elder care, expanding home care and supporting Nunavut Arctic College to increase the number of personal support workers. 

“People should be able to age in their own communities,” Holland said. 

Holland called bringing elder care to Nunavut a “sustained effort.”

“Today isn’t going to fix that problem in its totality but it’s a really essential step forward,” Holland said. 

Main said there are still a long list of health care needs in the territory, but he hopes these agreements address some of them. 

“You look at the distance between our communities or how long a medevac takes to go to Ottawa, there’s very real challenges,” Main said. 

“It’s through working together that we can get through some very serious challenges,” he added. 

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