No house call policy, limited paramedic services costing lives, N.W.T. MLA says

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MLA for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh Steve Norn says a policy prohibiting community nurses from making house calls prevented two sick residents from getting life-saving care. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada - image credit)
MLA for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh Steve Norn says a policy prohibiting community nurses from making house calls prevented two sick residents from getting life-saving care. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada - image credit)

A policy that prohibits nurses from making house calls is endangering lives, especially when they cannot be transported to a health centre in timely manner, according to an N.W.T. MLA.

"In June 2020, we lost an elder in Deninu Kųę́ [First Nation] who was in medical distress and the local nursing staff were bound by policy or procedure and were not able to respond," Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn said in the Legislative Assembly Friday.

The elder was only a few hundred metres from the health centre, said Norn.

Community members phoning for a medical emergency must be transported by a friend or RCMP to get the medical attention they need, he said.

This resulted in a second death in the community, said Norn.

"We lost another resident who could have very well been still with us if there was a swift response to attend to their emergency. There was valuable time lost because of response in transportation of a patient to the health centre."

Community health nurses not first responders: minister

Health Minister Julie Green replied that "first responders have a different skill set," and the problem lies with getting patients to the health centre.

A policy from November 2019 prohibits community health nurses from leaving the health care centre in order to provide emergency services.

Green said there is a gap in ambulance services needed to transport people. That responsibility falls under the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs, which she said is working on the issue.