N.W.T. waiting to see if feds send out-of-territory health-care staff

·3 min read
Health Minister Julie Green at a press conference on Sept. 8, 2020. Green said the territory is still waiting to hear whether the federal government will send resources from other parts of the country. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Health Minister Julie Green at a press conference on Sept. 8, 2020. Green said the territory is still waiting to hear whether the federal government will send resources from other parts of the country. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada - image credit)

The N.W.T. is still waiting to hear if the federal government will send health-care staff from other parts of the country to help with a surge of COVID-19 in the territory.

Health Minister Julie Green said Monday she was expecting the total number of cases to increase later in the day, and that it "doesn't seem like we're on top of this yet."

Green said the territory had asked the federal government if it could act as a "broker of health-care staff" from places that aren't as hard hit by the pandemic, who could provide support in a variety of ways such as nursing, logistics or lab analysis.

"We haven't heard that we've got a response on that yet," she said.

The Canadian Armed Forces, however, have activated 15 Canadian Rangers and the Canadian Red Cross has sent five of its nurses to the territory to help respond to the situation.

Green said eight Rangers had been deployed as of Monday, while the nurses had arrived in the territory the day before and were receiving training before being sent "where they're needed."

"They need to understand and have a little orientation onboard session with our medical system," Green explained.

She also said it's an "awkward time" to be working with the federal government because of the election that was called a little more than week ago, just as case numbers in the N.W.T. were starting to grow.

"I think even though I'm not directly speaking with them, they understand this is an urgent situation," said Green, adding that she's "satisfied" with the response so far.

The territory hasn't updated its case count since Friday. At the time, there were nearly 200 cases throughout the N.W.T., most of which were in small communities, including 86 in Fort Good Hope, 73 in Colville Lake, eight in Délı̨nę and 10 in Norman Wells.

Fewer frontline staff available

The territory's healthcare system is already under strain. Green said they're asking people who have nursing credentials but who aren't currently working for help.

Between the resources that have been unlocked so far, and the possibility of health-care staff from other parts of the country, Green said there are a "lot of different possibilities to bring in staff to meet our immediate needs."

Green also said resources are being shifted to meet demand, noting a high number of cases in Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake, and high risk exposure notices in Délı̨nę.

"We've made a number of adjustments to acknowledge the fact we do have fewer frontline staff than we did previously, and we're prioritizing where we send them."

Late last week, the Health and Social Services Authority said it would be reducing services across the Northwest Territories as a result of the outbreak.

The Primary Care Clinic and the Frame Lake Community Health Centre in Yellowknife have moved to virtual appointments until the end of August because of "staffing redeployment to support outbreak management."

Yellowknife Public Health also reduced services until Aug. 30

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