New benefit to entice N.W.T. doctor and nurses to work over the holidays announced

Yellowknife's Stanton Territorial Hospital on Jan. 19. (Sara Minogue/CBC - image credit)
Yellowknife's Stanton Territorial Hospital on Jan. 19. (Sara Minogue/CBC - image credit)

Northwest Territories doctors and nurses who work over the holidays can be eligible for $2,000 to help friends and family travel north.

The Friends and Family Travel Program benefit is offered to front line nurse practitioners, registered nurses and physicians, including locums, providing direct patient care between Dec. 20 to Jan. 4, as long as the workers complete a minimum of five full shifts.

The $2,000 maximum can be used toward friends or family who travel to the community the nurse or physician is working in, covering flight or personal-vehicle travel expenses.

The new benefit comes almost one year after the Stanton Territorial hospital announced it was reducing services last holiday season, including suspending delivery services.

Pregnant people who were expecting to give birth in Yellowknife ended up being re-routed to Edmonton.

The obstetrics service suspension was originally scheduled December to February, but services were reduced until mid-April.

Service reductions in health care continued throughout the territory the rest of the year, as several communities went down to emergency care only, including the Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife.

The N.W.T. health minister declined an interview about the new benefit, referred CBC to speak with the health and social services authority — who did not respond by deadline.

The health benefit is available to workers under the Northwest Health and Social Service Authority, including Hay River and Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency.

Friends and family can travel anytime between Dec. 1 to Feb. 28.

A search on WestJet shows one-way flights from Edmonton to Yellowknife from Dec. 20 to 31, ranging from $378 to $758.

Canadian North offers daily flights from Edmonton, with current one-way seat sales from Edmonton to Yellowknife between Dec. 20 to 31, ranging from $299 to $539.74.

Air Canada stopped direct routes to Edmonton Oct. 1 and stopped direct flights to Calgary on Nov. 1.