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Physician shortages to continue in Hay River over the summer

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The Hay River health centre's staff shortage woes are expected to continue throughout the summer.

Practitioner availability will be reduced over July 1 to 21, and again between August 18 and 31.

During these times, there will only be two to three physicians in the community, the health authority said. Normally, there are five physicians on staff.

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The announcement comes on the heels of the Union of Northern Workers and the health authority reaching a tentative deal last week.

Erin Griffiths, chief executive of the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority, said in a statement other services provided by the authority will continue as normal.

The health authority plans to issue regular updates on service availability beginning on June 24. Updates will be found on the HRHSSA website and Facebook page, by calling 875-7263, and in the Hay River Hub newspaper.

“Historically, July and August are particularly challenging months to maintain a full complement of practitioners,” said the health authority in a statement.

“Recruiting family physicians is more challenging than ever before. We are aware of the impact vacancies have to our community, and we continue to develop ways to improve," said Griffiths in a statement. She added this problem is not unique to Hay River – across Canada, hospitals and health centres are struggling to find skilled practitioners, she said.

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Griffiths outlined measures the authority is taking to recruit doctors and nurse practitioners, including working with territorial partners, contacting current and prior locums, and advertising its “competitive compensation package.” The health authority is also drafting a formal recruitment and retention strategy.

In late April, Hay River’s health authority had announced the number of walk-in appointments would be reduced or unavailable due to doctor shortages until mid-May.

In June, Hay River North MLA RJ Simpson said the doctor shortage had further "eroded public confidence" in the NWT's healthcare system.