Stanton Territorial Hospital in September 2022. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
Some Yellowknife long-term care patients are being moved south and some hospital services reduced in what the NWT’s health authority called a precautionary measure.
A wildfire was about 20 km west of the city as of Tuesday afternoon, and a state of emergency had been declared a day earlier.
The health authority stressed it did not consider any of its actions to represent an evacuation, instead calling them changes to preserve service capacity.
In a notice on Tuesday afternoon, the authority said the intensive care unit at Stanton Territorial Hospital will ramp down services, the hospital’s operating room will be reduced to urgent and emergency cases, and residents of the extended care unit will be moved to long-term care facilities in the south.
The authority said this would minimize the number of people with complex needs who would have to be evacuated should the wildfire situation worsen.
“It is critical to note that this work is preparatory and is not being undertaken because of any new information or increased level of threat to the community of Yellowknife,” the notice stated.
The health authority is also planning to move people to the south who were long-term care and supported-living residents in Fort Smith and Hay River, that were evacuated and placed in the Stanton Legacy building in Yellowknife earlier in the week.
“At this time, we do not know how long communities will be evacuated or what the impacts on services will be,” the update stated. “Movement of these residents to other facilities that can provide ongoing care will allow for capacity to be preserved while the current evacuation plays out and while services are re-established afterward.”
NWT Fire said on Tuesday morning that the wildfire burning west of Yellowknife – fire ZF015 – was 20 kilometres northwest of the city at its closest point. The wildfire agency said while “significant fire behaviour” was expected on Tuesday, it did not anticipate the fire would reach Yellowknife in the coming days and a forecast wind shift on Thursday should slow its progress toward the city.
On Tuesday, the authority said there were no specific changes to primary care services but there had been increased demand for same-day appointments. Residents with concerns that aren’t urgent are asked to contact 811 for advice on whether they need in-person care.
Meanwhile, the NWT’s Department of Justice said it could not provide any details about what approach was being taken regarding inmates at Yellowknife’s jail.
The department did not elaborate on its evacuation plan for the North Slave Correctional Complex, or whether that plan had been activated, citing safety and security reasons.
“The Corrections Service is committed to the health and safety of the inmates in our care and we can confirm that there is an evacuation plan in place,” department spokesperson Ngan Trinh wrote in an email. “The Corrections Service is prepared to respond to an emergency if needed.”