Health and Social Services Minister Diane Thom says something new is happening to try to increase the number of permanent physicians in Hay River.
“You’ll be happy to know that the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority is hiring a full-time person to be able to work just on physician recruitment,” said Thom in a telephone interview with The Hub. “I was really excited when I got the news about that.”
The minister visited the community on June 23-24 and physician recruitment was on the agenda for discussions with the health authority.
“The focus of the new position is to encourage new physicians to consider Hay River as a place to settle,” she said. “Right now we do have locums that come back and forth.”
Thom said the health authority is in the process of hiring a recruiter, a position that is being funded by the Department of Health and Social Services.
The minister noted that the Hay River health authority is also working closely with the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority to make sure there are physicians and nurses in place to meet the needs of the community.
While in Hay River, Thom met with Brian Willows, the public administrator of the health authority, along with its CEO Erin Griffiths.
“As minister, it’s important I go out and meet with staff and partners,” said Thom.
She took the opportunity to visit the downtown construction site for a building that will accommodate healthcare workers still at the old H.H. Williams Memorial Hospital.
“I am pleased construction is underway and we’ll soon be able to have our staff in another modern building to be able to serve residents of Hay River and some of the surrounding areas, as well,” she said.
The site of the old hospital will be used to build a new long-term-care facility, which will have about 48 beds.
“One of the mandate items for this 19th Assembly is to help to ensure seniors age in place so that they can be closer to home and make sure we have proper support for our seniors,” said Thom. “So what we’re doing is we’re currently finalizing some of the planning and the design for the additional long-term-care capacity in Hay River.”
She said, once the remaining workers move out of the old hospital by next summer, site preparation can start for the long-term-care facility.
“I also want to add that we are looking at our bed projections and want to make sure that we remain current with some of the best practices in design,” she said. “So that will take us a little bit more time to work on this, as well.”
Thom was asked about community concerns that some people self-isolating in Hay River because of Covid-19 border restrictions are not following the rules.
The minister advised community residents to stay vigilant and report violations to the GNWT.
“We are adjusting and improving our processes every day,” she said. “So we are working to increase our staff levels to be able to follow up on complaints in a timely manner.”