COVID-19 pandemic delays construction of Nunavut elders facility

New design must incorporate new infection prevention standards

Start on a 24-bed long-term care facility for Rankin Inlet, which was set to be built in 2020, has been delayed by the pandemic, says the Government of Nunavut.

Construction of a long-term care facility in Rankin Inlet has been cancelled this summer due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, says the Government of Nunavut.

“The GN is still committed to advancing the current approved 24-bed long term care facility in Rankin Inlet that has been approved by the legislative assembly,” said Community and Government Services Minister Lorne Kusugak in an emailed statement.

But no construction of the $27.5-million facility is planned for 2020.

The request for proposals for the facility had required a fall 2020 construction start, and contractors were required to make sure structural steel needed for building was on the last sealift of 2020, the GN said in an email response to questions from Nunatsiaq News.

“This became an unachievable outcome,” the GN said, based upon the timing of the awarding of the contract and the risk to the project schedule posed by COVID-19 restrictions in place across Canada.

Last November, MLAs approved the money needed to start work on the Rankin Inlet facility when they passed Bill 30, which included the GN’s capital budget.

The Rankin Inlet facility, which was to be ready for occupancy by 2023, formed part of the GN’s plans to meet its goal of offering 156 extended-care beds to elders in the territory by 2030: 24 beds in the Kivalliq, 24 beds in the Kitikmeot, and 108 beds for Iqaluit.

The GN now says there are many “unknowns related to the anticipated new federal standards for long-term care facilities in light of the recent issues throughout Canada involving COVID-19 cases.”

That means more design time will be needed, as new infection prevention standards in facilities become available.

“The new design approach will help address this and provide design time to include additional measures to mitigate the spread of infectious disease among the vulnerable residents living within a LTC [long-term care] facility,” the GN said.

So the GN has transitioned to a new, slower, design-bid-build delivery instead of a design-build approach.

The RFP for design services is currently advertised on and is scheduled to close on May 22.

The designing of the facility will commence upon the awarding of the contract to an architectural and engineering firm, the GN said.

“Design will occur from June 2020 until Feb 2021 when we expect to have a tender for construction ready to advertise,” the GN said.

“That tender will be advertised for the regular four weeks and we expect to award the construction contract in April 2021. This will allow enough time to ensure structural steel and building envelope materials can arrive in sealift 2021 and construction of the facility can occur in summer 2021.”

Cathy Towtongie, MLA for Rankin Inlet North–Chesterfield Inlet, said she was disappointed about the delay and what it means for the elders in southern facilities “who have no access to family, culture, language and the land of their birth.”

“In these times with COVID-19, priorities have shifted to ensure Nunavutmiut’s lives are safe,” Towtongie said. “But the elders’ facility will not disappear—it cannot and will not.”

The other two long-care facility projects for Iqaluit and the Kitikmeot region continue to move forward in the planning phase, and the project plans and budgets should be ready for the fall 2021 sitting of the legislative assembly, the GN said.