December 2, 2023

Health centres in 1 Baffin community, 3 Kivalliq communities and 2 Kitikmeot communities affected

Six of Nunavut’s community health centres are currently offering reduced or emergency services only.

Staff shortages in the territory’s health-care sector are creating a “heavy workload and greater likelihood of burnout,” according to Health Department spokesperson Chris Puglia.

“When there is an emergency that keeps numerous health centre staff on the job for extended periods of time, staff are required to have a rest period to ensure the safety and quality of care,” he said Wednesday in an email.

“Reduced services are based on these circumstances.”

According to data provided by the Department of Health, centres operating this month at reduced services — meaning some services are not available depending on staffing levels, and there may be a reduction in operating hours and staff available, especially for walk-ins — are:

  • Baker Lake: 11 out of 13 indeterminate positions are vacant but being filled with four casual employees;
  • Coral Harbour: five out of 10 indeterminate positions are vacant and being filled by four casual employees, up from one casual employee;
  • Kugaaruk: four out of six indeterminate positions are vacant but being filled with four casual employees, up from three.

Also according to health department data, health centres operating at emergency service, meaning only emergency cases are being dealt with although paramedics and medevacs remain available, are:

  • Gjoa Haven: seven out of 10 indeterminate positions are vacant but being filled with five casual employees;
  • Resolute Bay: two out of four indeterminate positions are vacant;
  • Whale Cove: five out of five indeterminate positions are vacant but some vacancies are being filled with two casual employees.

Meanwhile, some services at those centres continue to be offered virtually.

In March, 11 community health centres operated on reduced or emergency service.

Last month, Health Minister John Main said his department is working with the Department of Human Resources and Nunavut Employees Union to strengthen staffing and help with employee retention.

“We need the staff to have our health centres at full service so that we can provide the full suite of programs that communities need, and that is something that my department understands,” he said March 6 during the winter sitting of the legislative assembly in Iqaluit.

“We’ve brought in one package to improve our staffing at the community level, which includes a number of measures including looking at changing the hours of operation for health centres.”

The Department of Health uses a combination of virtual health and paramedic services to support residents of communities affected by centres offering reduced or emergency services, according to Puglia.

This includes support staff who are available by phone to assist with services such as filling prescriptions and medical travel.

Physicians also schedule community visits when staffing is most critical and are available to support virtual walk-in clinics.

Core services such as medevac services and medical travel continue to operate as normal across the territory, said Puglia.



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