Emergency department physician services returned to regular services as of March 24, following a March 22 statement from the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority.

Erin Griffiths, chief executive officer of Hay River Health and Social Services Authority (HRHSSA) said in a March 22 news release that reduction in doctor availability that had been planned between March 19 to 28 would be ending four days early.

“HRHSSA has continued to recruit during this time, and we have confirmed additional support to resume physician services within our emergency department as of Thursday, March 24th,” she said.

Griffiths commended workers at the health centre who have shown patience while management handles shortages in service.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank our very talented staff for their continued teamwork and resiliency as we managed our way through this unprecedented time,” Griffiths said.

“Their readiness and ability to support our community during this time continues to be greatly appreciated.”

Occupational therapists, physiotherapists, social workers, registered nurses, family physicians and laboratory technicians are all positions that remain in dire need and are being sought after, the health authority asserts.

“Staffing shortages are being driven by a combination of difficulties in recruitment, a highly competitive job market for health and social services professionals and vacancies caused by departures or retirements,” according to the March 23 release.

Gayla Thunstrom, president of the Union of Northern Workers said this week in an email that the union, which represents health care workers in Hay River, has long called for efforts by the territorial government to address difficulties with staff shortages.

“The Union predicted that unless we saw some immediate and concrete action from the government, it was only a matter of time before we saw more reductions in healthcare services,” she said. “We are disappointed that this prediction has been realized again, and that yet another community has to experience reductions in services.”

Thunstrom pointed out that the challenges the health care sector is facing is not unique to the territory, let alone to one “specific position, workplace, or community.”

She added that there could be opportunities to address the issue adding that the government can explore ways to be more competitive to attract and retain staff.

“Perhaps there is an opportunity for the union and the employer to work together in collective bargaining to find ideas and solutions for our healthcare members,” she said.

“Outside of bargaining, the Union is always open to meeting with the employer to discuss solutions, but it is frustrating when the employer is unwilling to negotiate or incorporate members’ feedback into their plans.

“Healthcare workers in Hay River care deeply about the patients and their community, and are worried about this effect of short-staffing on patient care.”

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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