Nunavut faces 2nd summer with health centre closures due to staff shortages

·1 min read
The front door of the St. Therese's Health Centre in Kugaaruk, Nunavut, pictured on Sept. 29, 2020. The Nunavut government has not yet said which communities could face health centre closures this summer.  (John Last/CBC - image credit)
The front door of the St. Therese's Health Centre in Kugaaruk, Nunavut, pictured on Sept. 29, 2020. The Nunavut government has not yet said which communities could face health centre closures this summer. (John Last/CBC - image credit)

For the second year in a row, a shortage of summer relief staff for Nunavut's community health centres will force some of those centres to close or reduce services this summer.

"Several Nunavut communities can expect their health centres to be temporarily closed, or see a reduction in services, over the summer," reads a news release from the territorial government.

The news release does not say where or when the closures will happen. It says communities will be given two weeks notice through local radio and social media, as well as a reminder one week ahead of the closure.

The government blames a national shortage of health-care professionals for the closures, and says it is "aggressively pursuing recruitment." Similar closures were announced in Nunavut last summer.

The news comes as respiratory illnesses are resurging in the territory, causing more medical evacuations (known as medevacs), and prompting the territory to resume its RSV immunization program for vulnerable infants.

Between May 15 and 27, one community — Arviat — saw 16 medevacs.

The Department of Health said it plans to use a combination of virtual health care and fly-in clinics to cover gaps in care during health centre closures.

During temporary closures, "paramedics are on site to provide emergency or life-threatening care."

Calls to health centres that are closed "may be automatically forwarded to other communities," the news release reads.

"There may be a delay during this time, but callers are recommended not to hang up."

COVID-19 vaccines will continue to be available by appointment.

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