Stanton Territorial Hospital is resuming obstetrics services for all NWT residents,.
“This means that any resident who is due to deliver a child can now expect their delivery to happen in the Northwest Territories starting today,” Health Minister Julie Green said in the legislature Feb. 22. “This represents a more rapid reopening than announced last month.”
On Jan. 26, the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSSA) announced that, between Feb. 22 and March 31, only NWT parents who were expecting at least their second child or who had scheduled c-sections would once again have access to obstetrics services at Stanton. This would mean 20 out of the 55 parents who were scheduled to give birth at the hospital during this time period would have to be sent to Edmonton for services. This was to be the first phase of a multi-phase reopening plan, although it was unclear what the following phases would be.
Green said the faster reopening was made possible by “the improved staffing outlook through March and April.”
Expectant parents from Nunavut will still have to travel to Edmonton to receive services. It was not immediately clear if the change of plans had been communicated to expectant parents prior to the announcement.
“I recognize the impact this service reduction has had on families,” Green said. “It hasn’t been easy.”
She thanked those parents who travelled to Edmonton to receive service over the past two months: “Your sacrifice helped us ensure continued care for those who needed it locally in urgent and emergency situations.”
Stanton obstetrics was closed to nearly all expectant parents from Dec. 10 to Feb. 21 due to staffing shortages, with most parents being sent to Edmonton instead.
Despite the faster-than-expected reopening, Green hinted that the resumption of services might not be permanent. “If there is any point in the future where staffing levels are limited and safe care is not possible, we will adjust services as necessary,” she said.
“The current realities of the nationwide shortage of skilled professionals, coupled with the impacts of Covid-19, particularly isolation requirements and illness for impacted staff, are a reality we must manage within.”
She noted that the last time the Stanton obstetrics unit had closed was in 2002.