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NWT wildfires: Health authority says to expect limited health services during initial return

NWT residents are being warned that health services will be limited upon their return to Yellowknife.
NWT residents are advised that they will be facing limited health and social services upon arriving home. The NWT Health and Social Services Authority says the resumption of full services could take up to a month. NNSL file photo

NWT residents are being warned that health services will be limited upon their return to Yellowknife.

Currently, all health services are suspended, except for basic emergency department care. The process of reinstating services will take time, with the initial focus on life-sustaining services, according to a Friday news release from the NWT Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSSA). The goal is to return to pre-evacuation service levels as quickly and safely as possible, but the NTHSSA advised that residents should expect full service resumption and stabilization to take up to one month.

When the evacuation order for Yellowknife is lifted and residents begin to return, certain services are expected to be available, provided there are enough qualified staff members, the NTHSSA advised. These include routine emergency department services, in-patient acute care at a reduced capacity, emergency surgical services, emergency obstetrics for unexpected obstetrical care needs, and support services at Stanton Territorial Hospital.

Limited community services will also be available, including primary care for limited walk-in appointments, virtual and limited in-person mental health services, scheduling of urgent and missed public health appointments, logistical support from Child and Family Services for clients’ re-entry, reduced home-care services, and shelter services.

However, certain services will not be available when the broader community returns. These include intensive care unit services, routine obstetrical services, chemotherapy, dialysis, IV therapy and pediatric admissions.

Residents who have concerns about the availability of health and social services in Yellowknife and choose not to return after the evacuation order is lifted should be aware that supports for evacuees may cease once re-entry flights have been completed.

The NTHSSA stated that patients in specified groups that are being advised not to return — those on dialysis, chemotherapy, IV therapy, and individuals with advanced or high-risk pregnancies — will be contacted directly with more information.

“For these individuals who will need to remain away from home longer than others due to the availability of necessary health services beyond the time when evacuee supports end, transition to medical travel supports will be coordinated,” the health authority added.

Long-term care/extended care and inpatients that were evacuated as part of long-term care or in-patient evacuations will be brought back towards the end of the service resumption period.

Repatriation will depend on whether facilities within the resident or patient’s home community are open and not under an evacuation order. The NTHSSA promised to provide more details directly to impacted families.

About the Author: Kaicheng Xin

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