Nursing shortage at Behchokǫ̀ health centre

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Behchokǫ̀ is the latest community to experience a nursing shortage amid broader concerns about healthcare staffing in the Northwest Territories.

The Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency says the shortage will last until next Wednesday, July 24, and will limit medical appointments at Behchokǫ̀'s Marie Adele Bishop Health Centre.

During the shortage there will be no scheduled afternoon appointments with community health nurses, the agency said in a news release on Monday.

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Other programs affected include Well Adult, Well Child, and chronic disease management.

Patients whose booked appointments are affected by the shortage will be contacted by the health clinic. The prenatal program and doctor clinic will continue as usual and a nurse remains available 24 hours a day for urgent cases.

The temporary shortage is one of several affecting NWT communities.

Several dozen nursing positions are believed to be vacant at the newly opened Stanton Territorial Hospital. As reported by NNSL, nurses at the old Stanton hospital described a "daily struggle" to find beds for patients and nurses to work. Hay River is facing a shortage of physicians over the summer.

"Not only the Tłı̨chǫ, but Canada as a whole is under a crunch for hiring nursing staff. So then we have to be innovative," said Ted Blondin, Chair of the Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency.

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Blondin says the agency is combating its staffing issue by shortening overtime hours for nurses, spacing out nurses in two shifts to have coverage in the evenings, and working with the territorial health authority to bring nurses into the community.

July is a particularly difficult month, Blondin added, due to staff vacations.

Nurses in Behchokǫ̀ also cover nursing needs in Wekweètì, while the communities of Whatì and Gametì each have their own nurse.

The health authority has also been using a telehealth service for the past five years, Blondin said, to treat residents in isolated communities and avoid having them travel for medical care.

"If we can deal with it at home, that's more efficient and effective," Blondin said, adding that avoids language translation difficulties that sometimes arise.

The manager of health services is available at 867-392-6075 for people who have questions about the shortage.


Correction: July 17, 2019 – 14:29 MT. Our original report stated Hay River is experiencing a shortage of nursing staff. The shortage is in fact of physicians. This report has been amended.

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