A veteran health professional who worked for four years for the Nunavik Health Board says she was shocked by the lack of training and supervision provided for new Inuit health staff.
Inuit health workers were often pushed aside and treated as mere tokens by non-Inuit staff, she said.
And gobs of money were wasted on unnecessary travel by non-Inuit professionals taking trips south, she added.
“I was disgusted by the health board,” said Lynne, a veteran social worker and manager with 17 years experience in the health field, including four in Nunavik.
She didn’t want her name used because she fears repurcussions against her former colleagues who are still with the board.
In southern health establishments, Lynne said new staff get weeks of intensive on-the-job training and close supervision.
They never get complicated or sensitive cases until everyone is sure they’re ready.
In Nunvaik, it was the opposite. “Inuit people taking new positions don’t have nearly the support I did when I was starting out,” said Lynne, who isn’t an Inuk herself.
“Normally, there is an introduction to the job and close supervision. But (in Nunavik), people are expected to do the job right away.”
One Inuit social services worker who had never worked in the field before simply sat in her new office with nothing to do for the first two weeks, Lynne said.
Social workers with little previous experience would be assigned to handle complicated family crises, or to testify in court about a case.
Ordinarily, court testimonies require special training because they are one of the most sensitive parts of the job; a family’s future could be at stake.
“Look at what you can do to the family if you do the job wrong,” said Lynne. “In the south, there is a lot of training and supervision before you go to court.”
Lynne said non-Inuit “bulldozed” Inuit staff and used them to “rubberstamp” decisions. “They didn’t want to have locals question what they were doing,” she said.
“The Inuit staff were seen as tokens even if they had lots of training or experience or skills,” she said.
Lynne also disputed the idea that the Nunavik Health Board’s problems all come from underfunding.
“There seems to be a lot of money, but it’s wasted on a lot of traveling south. The supervisors seem to be always down south. No one can do that and know what’s going on (in Nunavik),” she said.
“I just couldn’t believe the money that was wasted by people who don’t know what they are doing,” she said, adding that non-Inuit health staff were the ones responsible for the bulk of the waste.
Lynne echoed the concerns of many Inuit and some former health workers in Nunavik that the health board is disconnected from the Inuit communities. She said the situation was tragic because of the crying health and social-services needs of the Inuit people.
“People are wanting help, wanting you to work with them. But the priorities (at the health board) were respecting Quebec City, rather than ever hearing the needs of the communities,” she said.
Minnie Grey, the Nunavik Health Board’s executive director, agreed that the lack of Inuit staff has hurt health care and social services.
But she refused to respond to the criticisms made by the current and former employees. “It has to do with individual conflicts,” she said. “They have no validity whatsoever. It’s disgruntled employees.”