Kiguti pulling out?
Private dentists may leave region due to federal funding cuts
by Jennifer Pritchett
RANKIN INLET (Apr 15/98) - The company contracted by the Keewatin Regional Health Board to provide dental services may leave the region following a major federal funding cut that took effect April 1.
Dr. Hassan Adam, president of Kiguti Dental Services Ltd., a non-profit organization he and an Inuit holding company Tapiriit, said the 35 per cent cut to the Keewatin dental fee guide handed down by Ottawa could make it difficult for the company to survive.
"It really wipes out any possibility of expansion or enhancement of service," he said. "I don't know if it will allow it (Kiguti) to survive."
The cut comes after Kiguti took over the region's dental services last July, when the health board laid off dental therapists across the region amid public opposition.
The federal government, in an effort to standardize fee guides across the NWT, cut the Keewatin 35 per cent. The Inuvik, Baffin and Kitikmeot regions were trimmed by 10 per cent. The Keewatin was hit harder because the region was receiving more money than the other regions.
Adam said the extra money was needed to cover higher operational costs, specifically rental prices, in the Keewatin.
The news is drastic for Northern dentists, according to Adam, who said the Keewatin has already lost one dentist who has already tendered his resignation.
"It won't be long before the others leave," he said.
Health board interim executive director Chris Keeley was aware of the change to the federal fee structure, but was surprised to hear of the possibility Kiguti may leave the region.
Lorne Kusugak, executive director for the Kivalliq Inuit Association, said that the KIA is currently in negotiations to take over non-insured health benefits in the region and expects the federal government to fund them to the extent that it will allow them to hire at least three dentists and six dental therapists.
"We will then need somebody to administer the dental program," he said. "If Kiguti ... wants to stay in the Keewatin, that's up to them."
Kusugak said he expects dental service negotiations with the federal government to wrap up within three months.
Adam will be in Rankin Inlet this week to meet with the health board to make a decision as to whether or not its doors will be kept open.