Almost 50 GNWT employees stepped up to volunteer at isolation facilities in Yellowknife amid the current COVID-19 outbreak among the street-involved population, Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek said on Sept. 11.

In a Facebook post in the evening, Wawzonek said she learned in the morning that 15 GNWT employees responded to a call for volunteers on Sept. 10.

SEE MORE: Caroline Wawzonek

“This is among almost 50 government employees who have recently volunteered to support the current COVID-19 response through redeployment,” Wawzonek said. “And we’ve had a surge of people putting their names into the ‘casual pool’ from which these positions are also being filled. I am humbled to be the minister responsible for the public service and proud to be a Northerner.”

Her post came on the same day the NWT Health and Social Services Authority announced the Combined Day and Sobering Centre in Yellowknife was suspending all services due to staff shortages, while the healthcare system and services for the underhoused population come under increased strain.

RELATED REPORTING: All services at Day and Sobering Centre suspended due to staff shortages

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GNWT employees interested in helping out and who work in non-essential positions are asked to consider redeployment to an isolation centre, Wawzonek said.

Prospective volunteers apply through the GNWT’s online reassignment tool.

READ MORE: Reassignment portal

Interested volunteers who don’t work for the GNWT can apply to be a casual employee by emailing jobsyk@gov.nt.ca.

Role of COVID-19 Secretariat

Isolation centres are under the responsibility of the 150-employee COVID-19 Secretariat, the body formed to coordinate the GNWT’s response to the pandemic.

Of the $86 million budgeted for the Secretariat until 2023, most funding goes towards the isolation centres, with $12.8 million allocated in 2020-2021 and just over $17 million for 2021-2022, according to GNWT data.

RELATED REPORTING: Most of Covid Coordinating Secretariat budget to go to staff pay, isolation centre costs

Isolation centres in Yellowknife have at least five employees, with two relief staff members available, according to GNWT information released in September 2020.

READ MORE: COVID-19 Coordinating Secretariat budet and job list

Great Slave MLA Katrina Nokleby, who was among the legislative assembly members that voted against the Secretariat in 2020, said on Sept. 12 that the Secretariat should be able to redeploy their people for the isolation centres.

“I never thought that adding more bureaucracy was going to improve things,” she said.

Rylund Johnson, MLA for Yellowknife North said “it seems (GNWT) failed to keep positions staffed to make sure we had the back up for this scenario.”

NNSL Media has reached out to the Secretariat for comment.

Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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