The NWT's health authority says it can't resume endoscopy services at the new Stanton Territorial Hospital because there are not enough people left who know what to do.
Endoscopy, in which the digestive tract is examined with an endoscope, has been unavailable since the transition between Yellowknife's old hospital and the new facility last month.
The health authority had planned to reopen the service in the new building, but says it cannot do so following "movement of staff from the endoscopy program to other opportunities within the health and social services system."
Other nurses are now being sent for "immediate training" from the health authority's Alberta counterpart. The NWT is also trying to find locum nurses. No timeline was given for the resumption of endoscopy at Stanton.
"The main impact to NWT residents will be possible increases in referrals to other care sites for endoscopy services. Referrals will be based on how urgently patients require the procedure," said the health authority in a news release on Friday.
People needing endoscopy as soon as possible are being referred to Alberta, which the territory said often happened even when the old Stanton was running its usual endoscopy program.
Non-urgent cases may also be referred to Alberta but some could end up being "managed in the Northwest Territories" until the procedure is again available at Stanton.
Alternatively, patients could be sent to Hay River or Inuvik, where some capacity for endoscopy services exists.
The news comes in the same week that the Union of Northern Workers was reported to be meeting Stanton nurses over allegations of poor working conditions.
NNSL said reporters had seen a letter – referring to conditions at the old hospital – in which nurses describe a "daily struggle" for both staff and beds, and predict similar concerns at the new facility.
“The NWT Health and Social Services Authority is working hard to look at all options to resume endoscopy services at Stanton Territorial Hospital," said Sue Cullen, the health authority's chief executive.
"This includes working to immediately increase capacity through staff training, targeted recruitment activities, and looking at alternative staffing options such as temporary locum staff.
"Timely access to care is a priority and ensuring we have sufficient specialized staff to deliver this service is critical.
"In the meantime, we will continue to ensure access to endoscopy services for our patients by referring them out to partner care sites for services."