Stanton Territorial Hospital in September 2022. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority has not yet called for all staff to return to Yellowknife but is working on a plan to resume core services in the capital.
That’s according to an email sent to staff Tuesday on behalf of Kimberly Riles, chief executive officer of the health authority, which was shared with Cabin Radio.
“Staff should not yet return to Yellowknife and should not be coming back to the community until they are directly contacted,” the email states.
“You will be contacted individually and specifically recalled when it is time as you will be required to be listed on a repatriation flight, or to be issued essential services clearance to return by road.”
NWT Fire announced on Monday afternoon the wildfire burning to the west of Yellowknife, labelled fire ZF015, was “being held.” That does not mean it is now safe to return, the wildfire agency said, but the fire is unlikely to spread beyond expected boundaries.
While an evacuation order for the city and surrounding areas remains in place, the City of Yellowknife said Monday it had begun asking staff “critical” to re-entry efforts to return.
It remains unclear when the general public may be allowed to re-enter the municipality.
The email from the health authority states it has been working with the territory’s emergency management organization, among other government departments and agencies, on return planning. It said “several planning assumptions,” such as the availability of groceries and childcare services, need to be confirmed before it can finalize timelines.
The email states some staff will be recalled sooner than others as service resumption will be phased with a focus on life-sustaining emergency services. Some staff may not be recalled until the general public is allowed to return to Yellowknife.
Priority service areas identified include emergency department services, in-patient acute care, emergency surgical services, emergency obstetrics and support services at Stanton Territorial Hospital. Primary care and mental health services were also identified as priorities.
The email states a limited number of staff in these areas may initially be recalled.
The health authority added it currently understands immediate family and dependents of recalled workers should be allowed to return to Yellowknife with them.
“We recognize this is a challenging time and that everyone’s circumstances are different, while we all have a duty to our patients and clients in establishing critical services they depend on, we also recognize that the people we are depending on to do this work are often evacuees themselves who are facing their own challenges,” the email concludes, adding it plans to share more information about supports for staff.
The health authority said it would also release further information for staff in Fort Smith as the fire situation in the South Slave region evolves.
The Hay River Health and Social Services Authority has not publicly shared any return-to-work plans yet.