Julie Green, Minister of Health and Social Services, issued the following statement on the shortages of physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and allied health professionals that have led to service reductions or closures throughout the Northwest Territories:
“The Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to ensuring the highest quality of health care is provided to all Northwest Territories residents. We are facing significant staffing challenges due to a variety of reasons and that’s creating uncertainty for many residents. I want to assure people that we are taking steps to make sure residents get the care they need when they need it.
“As of today, there is emergency care only in Fort McPherson, Sachs Harbour and Fort Providence, and reduced services in the Hay River Reserve, Fort Smith, Norman Wells, Tulita, Behchokǫ and Fort Resolution. In Hay River, in patient beds are closed, services are reduced at the Medical Clinic and the emergency department is being supported by a Practitioner. From July 18 to 22, Stanton Territorial Hospital’s operating room will be reduced to emergency services only. Residents can check the status of health care service levels at www.nthssa.ca/service-levels.
“Attracting health practitioners to the North has been a consistent challenge. The pandemic, combined with a national shortage of health professionals, means we do not have the staff available to maintain all health care services at this time. This is creating service disruptions in the territory, especially over the summer months when staff are taking hard-earned time off.
“Burnout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, has led to the resignation, retirement, or reduced work hours of many health professionals across the country and in the NWT. Many of these people made huge sacrifices to help keep us safe during the pandemic, and now they are tired.
“A dedicated Task Team from the Departments of Health and Social Services, Finance and all three health authorities is taking immediate actions to manage the staffing shortages, however we may see more triaging of care and longer waits for non-urgent issues.
“The health care field is highly competitive, and although the NWT offers a competitive wage and benefits package to its professionals, it is taking special targeted measures including additional incentives. However, we continue to see challenges in hiring, and as such, service disruptions will continue.
“Lastly, there has been an increase in incidents of aggressive behavior towards health care staff. We understand there are many frustrations related to access, and we ask residents to please have consideration for the staff who are doing their best to meet the needs of you and all residents. Please remain patient as they are doing what they can to ensure you receive the highest quality health care possible.
“We know that for some of you these may be difficult times. We thank you for your understanding and patience.”