Inuit arrive to Montreal for clinical care. The lodge the place individuals stay is riddled with difficulties

For several years, Inuit who flew south to Montreal for healthcare treatment had been relegated to a YMCA on the western edge of downtown. 

Eventually, in 2016, a new centre, called Ullivik, was opened in close proximity to the city’s airport. 

The new making has the appearance of a boutique lodge from the road, with a stone Inukshuk out front and signage in Inuktitut. 

It was supposed to serve as a spot of healing for the hundreds who occur to the metropolis just about every month for remedy. 

But much more not long ago, providing a welcoming environment has been a problem. 

Clients at Ullivik have posted dozens of shots on social media of mattress bugs and unappetizing foods and complained about treatment method by security personnel.

The centre has also struggled with substantial workers turnover and allegations of mismanagement.

In the midst of this upheaval, Rita Novalinga was hired as director of Ullivik in November — its fifth given that 2020.

“I have two roles to enjoy: to be compassionate and to be a chief,” mentioned Novalinga, a former company secretary with Makivik Company, an organization that signifies Inuit in Nunavik.

“Which is what I’m seeking to do with the people today that will need my support.”

Rita Novalinga, who previously labored with the Makivik Corporation, an corporation that signifies Inuit in Nunavik, was employed to direct Ullivik in November.

‘All Inuit get lumped into this category’

The challenges ahead are immense.

This earlier August, two women of all ages being at the lodge were struck and killed by automobiles on the nearby freeway, considerably less than 24 hrs apart. 

Their deaths are remaining investigated by Quebec’s coroner’s place of work. 

As properly, an on line petition released previously this 12 months has nearly 1,000 signatures. It describes the meals as “atrocious” and the personnel as condescending to individuals who remain there. 

Nellie Tookalook was at Ullivik final thirty day period with her son, who necessary surgical procedures on his broken leg. 

While she welcomed a place to keep all through a complicated time, she reported the hallways ended up dark and the beds and pillows ended up not comfortable.

“They are no fantastic for people today who are healing from broken bones,” claimed Tookalook. “They have to have to be modified large time.”

But her biggest criticism was about the staff members at the entrance desk, some of whom she observed disrespectful. 

She asked for a area with a bathtub mainly because her son had a tough time making use of a shower soon after his surgical procedures. The space she was demonstrated by an worker was soiled and also smaller. 

“I advised him I never like how we’re remaining handled above there and he advised me to chat to one of his supervisors and I questioned who the supervisor was and he in fact instructed me to figure it out myself,” she reported in a telephone interview. 

“The people today who are there working for us, they require to be a lot more comprehending, more caring, and not be so impolite.”

She said numerous clients come to feel like their suggestions has been dismissed. 

“I imagine the people that are running the area, they need to examine the entire building. The showers, the beds,” mentioned Tookalook. “They want to go see for themselves to see what we’re chatting about.”

meat and potatoes
An on the net petition describes the foodstuff at Ullivik as ‘atrocious’ and the employees as condescending to individuals who continue to be there. (

Misty Tertiluk was at Ullivik for 12 days in Oct. She reported it was dirty and a staff member unexpectedly came into her home to look at on her all through the evening, in what she was later on advised was a combine-up. Tertiluk claimed she feared she would be sexually assaulted. 

“I do not ever want to enter that creating,” she explained in an exchange on Fb.

A further lady who has stayed at Ullivik numerous occasions, most lately in September, explained the stability guards and the motorists who consider patients to and from the airport are amongst the most significant challenges. 

She reported she has felt discriminated from because of her background.

“All Inuit get lumped into this category, that all are drunks,” she claimed. 

“They have the predetermined strategy that each particular person is there just to be drunk.”

The lady, and various other people who spoke with CBC, asked not to be discovered mainly because they count on Ullivik and be expecting they will will need to remain there once again when they get professional medical treatment.

In accordance to Quebec’s Ministry of Wellbeing, a lot more than 5,000 sufferers designed the trip to Montreal from Nunavik for health-related care — along with about 2,000 escorts in 2019-2020. 

The pursuing 12 months, the quantity dropped to about 3,800 people and 1,500 escorts thanks to the pandemic.

Richard Budgell, a Labrador Inuk and an assistant professor in the department of household medicine at McGill University who teaches about Inuit wellness, mentioned the practice of sending patients south for treatment — which is similar throughout considerably of Canada — can be complicated for people.

“You happen to be ill or wounded and you might be a few 1,000 kilometres away from home,” he stated. 

“So to give an natural environment that is welcoming and that obviously has an Inuit orientation is hard.”

Not significant adequate from the start out

When the 91-space, 143-bed centre opened five several years back, it was seen as a step ahead in overall health-care accessibility for Inuit living in Nunavik, the autonomous territory in northern Quebec. 

Practically promptly, nevertheless, it was very clear the space was not significant adequate. 

Nunavik has two overall health centres on its territory but for major interventions and extra advanced instances, clients need to fly south to get procedure. 

On its opening day, Ullivik had to rent 11 rooms in a nearby hotel to accommodate the overflow. 

Ullivik has because entered into an settlement with a nearby resort to consider on various dozen clients a night time. That hotel has also been the matter of comparable problems, which includes bedbugs and tension with team.

Ullivik was created to residence approximately 4,000 persons a yr. As a substitute, the demand from customers is approximately two times that (and Ullivik is on tempo to consider on even additional in 2022).

The centre has a no-alcoholic beverages or medicine plan, but it has struggled with managing the trouble. 

The scene following a highway collision, where a car and bent wheelchair can be seen.
In August, two gals keeping at the lodge were struck and killed by motor vehicles on the highway around Ullivik in the span of significantly less than 24 several hours. (Mathieu Wagner/Radio-Canada)

In between August and October 2022, one-third of the 826 incidents claimed at Ullivik had been similar to alcoholic beverages or drug consumption, according to a presentation at a wellness authority board assembly. 

The centre has a peaceful home the place patients can sober up and has tried to boost the situation,in partnership with the Native Friendship Centre of Montreal.

The firm is carrying out patrols to detect risks in the space and what can be adjusted. 

It has also satisfied with Montreal law enforcement and associates from the town of Dorval to talk about approaches to make the space safer for pedestrians.

Allegations of mismanagement

Ullivik has also struggled with higher staff turnover and allegations of mismanagement. 

A 2019 inner audit acquired by CBC Information in-depth troubles with the bookkeeping of Ullivik, including awarding contracts without tender and failing to preserve a document of some charges.

Woman at board meeting
Jennifer Munick-Watkins is the new president of Nunavik Regional Board of Wellbeing and Social Companies, which satisfied in Montreal last 7 days. The board oversees Ullivik. (Julie Marceau/Radio-Canada)

A previous director, for occasion, allegedly had remnants from the design of Ullivik – 21 containers of wooden flooring – shipped and mounted at her personalized residence, according to the audit.

A yr afterwards, the Quebec government purchased an investigation into Nunavik Regional Board of Wellness and Social Solutions, which oversees Ullivik. 

The board has been the subject of reports of mismanagement, and it has struggled with staffing shortages.

The provincial govt has nevertheless to make its results or suggestions community, nevertheless the Nunavik wellness board confirmed it has been given it. 

In a assertion, Quebec’s Ministry of Well being claimed it is doing the job with the board to utilize the suggestions laid out in the report. 

A motivation to enhancement

At a the latest board meeting, Novalinga was candid about some difficulties at Ullivik and said she would do her finest to enhance the circumstance.

She claimed Ullivik is on the lookout for extra Inuit staff and hoping to improve the food stuff in collaboration with the company that has the deal.

Just one of her ambitions is to broaden Ullivik’s ability, provided the reliance on the nearby resort.

“There is certainly about 13,000 Nunavik individuals, so we are rising rapidly,” explained Novalinga.

Van with Ullivik written on it
Ullivik, positioned on a busy extend of raod in close proximity to the airport in the suburb of Dorval, delivers a shuttle service to hospitals in Montreal. (Dave St-Amant/CBC)

Asked about the allegations of mismanagement, Novalinga informed CBC, “I don’t know everything about that.”

When asked about the destructive reviews about Ullivik on social media, she reported she’s attempting to get initially-hand data about what is occurring on the floor.

To that conclusion, she mentioned she’s executing location checks 3 occasions a day — in the early morning, in the course of lunch and in the afternoon when the bus arrives back from the healthcare facility.

“I beeline for the elders to see how they are dealt with, what they are undertaking, what their demands are,” reported Novalinga. 

“I always tell them, if you have a problem, permit me know, just flag me down and talk to your escort to get in touch with me.”

A lot more commonly, Novalinga explained she’d like to recreate a perception of community considerably from residence. Quite a few of the activities Ullivik made available stopped for the duration of the pandemic, which designed a sensation of isolation.

If she can uncover the funding, she’d like to offer you courses on-web-site this kind of as beading and sewing classes, as very well as bingo in the evenings.

Tookalook is optimistic Novalinga can make these modifications – and hopes they are designed shortly.

“There requirements to be a ton of correcting in excess of there,” she reported.

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