Lack of physicians in Hay River has ‘eroded public confidence’

Last modified: June 2, 2019 at 9:42pm

A shortage of doctors has further “eroded public confidence” in the NWT’s healthcare system, a Hay River MLA said this week.

In the legislature, Hay River North MLA RJ Simpson questioned the health minister Glen Abernethy, urging the territorial government to do more.

Walk-in appointments were reduced in April and May as two locums changed their plans, causing a shortage of staff at the town’s health centre.


“It is unacceptable, and we have to take steps to ensure it does not happen again,” said Simpson.

“What steps is the Hay River Health Authority, along with the Department of Health, taking to recruit more physicians in Hay River?”

Abernethy, saying he understood residents’ frustrations, responded: “The authority is currently developing a new formal recruitment strategy in order to help them find more physicians, hopefully on a permanent basis.”

The health minister admitted: “A lot of work needs to be done.”

Responding to a further question from Simpson, the minister said systematic changes to address difficulties recruiting doctors were “absolutely” planned.


According to Abernethy, a pilot program in several NWT regions involves what the territory calls “integrated, multi-disciplinary care teams, where each member works to their full scope of practice to provide what we hope and we expect will be flexible, responsive primary healthcare and health promotion.”

The minister said that though the pilot is not taking place in Hay River, the town’s health authority had been participating in the process “to ensure that they are a part of the effort from the very beginning.”

He continued: “We don’t want to lose any of our professionals, but we need a system that really meets the need of our residents, and it needs to be designed with outcomes as a priority, and focus on our clients, not on the systems themselves.”