seniors, Covid-19, vaccine, Health Minister Julie Green speaks in the legislature Feb. 4.
The Department of Health and Social Services has provided information on vaccinations to seniors using the radio, in newspapers, on posters and by door-to-door visits, said Health Minister Julie Green in the legislative assembly on Thursday. GNWT image

The GNWT has work to do to ensure seniors don’t fall through the cracks during the pandemic, Katrina Nokleby said Thursday.

The Great Slave MLA said seniors had trouble in mid-January trying to book spots for the Covid-19 vaccination clinic in Yellowknife.

Many couldn’t get through to speak with a person and when the line went to voicemail the box was full.

Territorial medical director Dr. AnneMarie Pegg said on Jan. 17 that contacting public health for the clinic “wasn’t an option” at the time.

Stress and anxiety

“We have heard from several seniors about the stress and anxiety that navigating the booking system has caused them,” Nokleby said.

The clinic in Yellowknife extended into the last week of January filled up quickly.

“Many of our seniors (live) restricted lives (and have) for almost a year and desperately want this vaccination,” she said. “To them, not to make it easy for them to access is almost cruel.”

She called for adequate services so seniors can age in place, have their mental health needs met and receive information on vaccine clinics.

In response, Health Minister Julie Green outlined services tailored to seniors such as homecare, phone calls, visits and one-on-one support.

In long-term care settings, measures to screen residents for depression, controlled visits by family and friends, virtual calls, the Community Counselling Program and the NWT Help Line are now in place.

Green noted that many Elders don’t use computers. She said the Department of Health and Social Services (HSS) has talked about vaccinations in radio, in newspapers, on posters and “door-to-door.”

The minister didn’t talk about what services help seniors age in place.

Vax tracking

Nokleby turned to the vaccinations of seniors and other groups. She asked how many people in each group HSS had vaccinated, and how many extra doses have been administered.

“‘We’re not tracking that’ is not acceptable to me,” she said. Nokleby said figuring out how many extra doses went where are is simple math.

“All you need to do is take the number of appointments you have, the numbers of doses administered, and subtract them.”

Green said she would look into how many people over 60 have been vaccinated. The department breaks down the numbers of vaccinated people by need and not by demographic. She said that was on the orders of the chief public health officer.

The minister said 12,241 doses have made it into NWT arms so far.

“We are, to be perfectly honest, putting a lot of time into keeping up with the Public Health Agency of Canada reporting,” she said. “We have no additional time to answer the Member’s question.”

HSS spokesperson Damien Healy said Jan. 26 the department is working on a regional breakdown on vaccine delivery.

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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