The Northwest Territories added 20 frontline healthcare workers in permanent and relief positions to its workforce during the fourth quarter of 2021, according to data from the Department of Finance Health Recruitment Unit.
The figures from Oct. 1 to Dec. 1 don’t include those hired for casual or short-term positions.
There are currently about 1,200 frontline healthcare employees working in indeterminate, term and relief positions in the territory.
The Health Recruitment Unit was created in December 2020 to recruit new staff for the NWT healthcare system.
The new hires come as the territory’s health system continues to struggle with staff shortages. In a Jan. 26 statement announcing the delay of the full reopening of obstetrics services at Stanton Territorial Hospital, the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSSA) said that “while we have been successful in staffing to date,” the birthing unit was not yet ready to resume full services.
In that statement, the health authority said that from Feb. 22 to March 31, only mothers expecting at least their second child or with a scheduled C-section would once again be able to give birth at the Yellowknife hospital. It was unclear how services will change after March 31.
NTHSSA spokesperson Jack Miltenberger confirmed on Jan. 19 that Stanton Territorial was operating with an average baseline vacancy for nursing positions of 22 per cent — the same rate as Dec. 1, 2021.
At a press conference on Dec. 1, NTHSSA CEO Kim Riles said of reopening the obstetrics unit in February: “Currently, indications for our staffing in the new year are favourable, and so I’m optimistic that we will either be able to adhere to, or at a minimum, resume full services as projected.”
At the same press conference, Health and Social Services Minister Julie Green said that “Advertising and active promotions, including national nursing recruitment sites, have netted only seven applications and one hire since June.” She went on to say that during the same time frame, an external recruitment agency had only turned up three new hires, whose start dates and contracts were still being ironed out at the time.
NTHSSA spokesperson David Maguire said the authority will evaluate the possibility of reopening obstetrics services every two weeks going forward.
“Due to the nature of birthing services and travel (people leave a few weeks before they are due) we needed to set defined dates to work within so we could ensure people know what to expect and what to plan for,” he said. “As reopening is dependent on staffing, reopening is continually assessed based on staff being secured. During phase one of the resumption of services, the decision to transfer care will be revisited bi-weekly and if earlier resumption is possible it will be announced. We will provide more information on what to expect after March 31 as we approach that date.”
It was not immediately clear how many of the 20 new hires were employed at Stanton Territorial Hospital.