'Let's get on with it'
Minister's forum on health report out

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 18/00) - The message from the public is clear and simple -- stop studying and start doing.

That was the key finding of the minister's forum on health care, reflected in a report released Thursday.

Entitled 'Let's get on with it,' the report summarizes what the forum members heard during 12 meetings in NWT communities last summer and fall. In all, the forum heard from 900 members of the public and health care workers. Cost of the work was $450,000.

Forum chairman Duncan McNeill said the numerous studies and reviews of health care have not diminished public interest in the system.

"The communities were intensely interested in the subject of how to improve a sustainable system, how to get what they needed," said McNeill, adding the smallest turnout for the meeting was approximately 50 people.

In his introduction to the report, McNeill noted people told the forum "no more reviews, studies, reports are needed. Action is wanted today, not tomorrow."

People identified as their most pressing concern, the lack of substance abuse treatment programs. Health and Social Services Minister Jane Groenewegen said she will approach her new portfolio "with the same vigour I've taken on many things in the past," but added part of the responsibility lies with the individuals in trouble.

"We can't make people well if they don't want to be," said Groenewegen. "We can't make people stop self-destructive behaviour if they don't want to stop."

The report identified five "action priority areas" it says people want addressed:

- transfer authority and funding for programming to the people they serve

- support the transfer with training and skills development programs

- concentrate efforts and resources on reducing substance abuse

- integrate non-government organizations more fully into the delivery and management of health care

- the minister should make semi-annual reports to the legislative assembly on steps taken to implement these priorities.