Canada plans to spend $3.1 million on virtual health care for Nunavummiut

The money will go towards secure file transfers and video conferencing.

By Mélanie Ritchot, Nunatsiaq News - July 28, 2021
Pangnirtung’s health center is seen in this file photo. The federal government has announced it will spend $3.1 million to help Nunavut improve virtual health care services in the territory. (Mélanie Ritchot / Nunatsiaq News file photo)

Virtual health care in the territory will see a $3.1-million boost as the result of a new agreement between Canada’s federal government and the Government of Nunavut.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu made the announcement on Monday through a news release.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that now more than ever Canadians need access to virtual health-care services,” she stated in the release.

The money is intended to go towards secure messaging and file transfers, secure video conferencing and technologies to monitor patients remotely.

Another priority is getting patients access to COVID-19 and other test results, according to the news release.

The bilateral agreement is among a list of agreements the federal government made with Canadian provinces and territories to enhance virtual health services amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nunavut Health Minister Lorne Kusugak called the agreement a “major” investment in improving access to health services in the territory.

“Virtual health services are vital to allowing Nunavummiut to access health care in their communities and ensuring continuity of care,” he said in the release.

The agreement follows a May 2020 announcement from the federal government of $240.5 million for virtual health-care services across Canada.

Of that funding, $150 million was slated to go to different provinces and territories through bilateral agreements — like the one announced with Nunavut today.

Another $50 million is set aside to help provinces and territories implement the new initiatives.

The agreement says deputy ministers agreed the new federal investment needs to focus on user experience, data security and privacy and cross-jurisdictional solutions — meaning making it easier for patients to receive care outside of the territory or when switching providers.

The Government of Nunavut is responsible for the design and delivery of the services, the agreement states.

Funds can go towards salaries, benefits, rent, or materials and supplies.

It could also be put towards training, travel costs or technology investments.

The agreement will be in effect until March 31, 2022.