According to the Health Board’s Chairperson, Dianne Reid, when the board repatriated the public health department from the Montreal General Hospital, it did so with the vision in mind that the board itself would one day be a facility run from one of the communities.

Along the way the decision to actually do so became a concrete concept in 2003 but the infrastructure required to facilitate the move was unavailable as there was no community with the housing or office space available for the employees.

That was until two years ago when the Minsitry of Health decided to hand over an envelope to pay for 48 new housing units for the Board’s employees and with the projected opening of a new clinic in Mistissini, the Health Board actually began to take shape as a foreseeable reality.

As the housing for the project was slated to be completed for September 2008, back in July, the announcement was made that the big move would take place as of October 17th, a decision that will affect 59 employees.

“It is true that it affects a lot of people but the majority of them are nonnative professionals that work in the public health sector and it does impact on their future roles, whether they will stay working with the health board or move on,” said Reid.

For as much as the Board’s employees have known about the looming move since 2003, in that the announcement was made in July for an October move, the Board could be facing a massive employee exodus.

“A lot of them don’t feel that their families can move with them to Mistissini, I think that is one of the main reasons and it’s sad that people have to quit over relocation of a whole department of the Cree Nation because those services are needed in the communities,” said Reid.

Claude Cornellier, a nurse in charge of CSST’s Healthy Workplace program, is frustrated over the move because the employees that are being moved to the North are only those with fulltime, permanent status and as a temporary employee working on a pilot project, he will lose his job along with many other temporary and part time workers.

“We are not against the principal of regrouping the CHB’s employees within the Cree territory, we are not questioning that, what we are questioning is their method that they are using to do so,” said Cornellier.

According to Cornellier, there is a lot of dissent amongst the Health Board’s workers as not only have they been given short term notice that they and their families will either have to relocate or lose their jobs but that so far, as only the housing is ready, all of the relocated employees will be working from home until the offices are ready.

Though the Health Board did hire consultants to advise them on moving their employees to the North, Cornellier said that the Board ignored their advice to move their employees slowly over an 18 month period and went with the July to October plan instead.

As a result of the quick move Reid is anticipating possible service gaps as not only will rehiring for those leaving the board only start after the October 17th

move, it will require time to retrain the new employees to get them up to speed on the various programs and services that the board offers that are unique to the Cree communities.

“Well the reality will be because people are choosing to leave their positions and not move to the communities, there will be gaps in implementing the programs of promotion of health that were developed by these people but it is part of the reality of change and we have to live with those gaps until we are able to solidify each position again in the Cree communities,” said Reid.

For as much as Reid acknowledges the tremendous amount of hard work that has gone into developing these programs and services, as the board feels its necessary to move forward with the decision and deal with the consequences later.

At press time there were no solid numbers available on how many employees would actually be moving to the North or what kinds of service gaps could occur as a result of the move. The Nation Magazine will be following this story as it unfolds.