Some health centres in Nunavut will be closed or offering reduced services this summer due to staff shortages, the Department of Health advised on Friday morning.
Residents in Grise Fiord and Resolute can expect their health centres to close temporarily in mid-August. Health centres that will move to services for emergencies only are in Sanikiluaq (July 26-Aug. 31), Taloyoak (July 30-Aug 13), Kugaaruk (Aug. 1-15), Clyde River (Aug. 9-Aug 24) and Naujaat (Aug. 12-Aug. 31).
In communities where health services are directly unavailable or limited, the GN will arrange for online appointments, fly-in clinics and paramedic services. These options can be arranged by calling the local health centre, where sometimes the calls will be forwarded or redirected.
Prescriptions will be filled locally, but there’s potential for delays, the Department of Health warned.
The territorial government signed a deal with contractor Bayshore Healthcare Agency in March to provide nurses and midwives in Nunavut. Those staff are preventing more health centre closures, the GN stated. The planned closures and reduced services could change, depending on availability of staff over the next several weeks, according to the Department of Health.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and a nationwide shortage of health care staff have made the recruitment of nurses into the territory very difficult,” said Health Minister Lorne Kusugak. “My department developed contingency plans that will allow continuity of health services in affected communities while aggressively pursuing recruitment efforts throughout the summer.”
Denise Bowen, executive director of the Registered Nurses Association of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, concurred that there’s a national and international nursing shortage that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This has lead to greater competition between provinces and territories vying for a decreasing nursing workforce across Canada, and some healthcare institutions have begun to offer recruitment bonuses – making recruitment to Northern nursing positions more difficult,” Bowen stated. “We are hearing anecdotally that an increasing number of nurses are considering leaving the territory and some are considering leaving the profession entirely, which will only compound the challenge to recruit and retain Northern nurses. The Registered Nurses Association of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut knows that key to a healthy Northern healthcare workforce is a stable and sufficient supply of nurses and agrees with the Canadian Nurses Association call for greater collaboration between governments, unions, educational institutions and regulators to address the root causes of the nursing shortage.”