Low staffing levels in a number of NWT communities may lead to service reductions or closures, according to NWT health and social services authorities.

Yellowknife and Hay River can already expect to be affected.

Starting on June 27, laboratory and diagnostic imaging services at the Yellowknife Primary Care Centre laboratory site will be closed until Sept. 5.

“Staffing this service has been an ongoing issue and impacts have been announced as they are presented,” reads the notice. “Constant intermittent closures have added frustration for staff, providers and patients. During this extended closure, the focus will be on assessing our service model and staff recruitment.”

Though the impacts listed above are the most immediate, staffing levels across the entire health and social services system are strained, the health authorities state.

“In particular physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, and allied health professionals such as medical laboratory technologists are areas where hiring for indeterminate resident staff and locum and temporary staff are presenting significant challenges,” reads the notice.

A collaborative approach to mitigating service impacts is being taken between health and social services authorities in the NWT.

Efforts include “examining all service impacts and determining if there are mitigation measures within the system that can be taken to avoid reduction or closure.”

As well, where reduction or closure is inevitable; resources are to be deployed to reduce the impact on the system as a whole.

Furthermore, outreach will be conducted to new and past locum or temporary staff to fill gaps in the interim.

As well, beginning July 5, the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority will be moving to intermittent physician services in the community.

“Physician coverage between July and September is not guaranteed,” reads the June 22 notice. “At times where a physician is not present in (the) community, patients will access care through nursing staff; virtual services with the support of a local nurse to triage; or in cases where escalation of care or physician services are required, patients may be moved for care.”

The health authorities advise that contingency planning aims to minimize service reductions for residents of Hay River and that recruitment is ongoing.

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  1. The problem could be solved if resident northerners pursued the necessary education streams.