Fort Simpson examines medical travel self-isolation change

Fort Simpson from the air in July 2020
Fort Simpson from the air in July 2020. James O’Connor/Cabin Radio

The Village of Fort Simpson is investigating whether residents who must leave the NWT for medical purposes can complete their mandatory 14 days of self-isolation in the community.

Those who leave the territory for medical procedures still must undergo 14-days of self-isolation upon returning to the territory in one of the four major hubs: Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River, or Fort Smith.

Every time they travel south for treatment, Fort Simpson residents must isolate for two weeks before returning home.

At a village council meeting on Monday, Fort Simpson Mayor Sean Whelly said he plans on drafting a letter to the territory’s chief public health officer.



Whelly wants to tell Dr Kami Kandola the village is open to isolation plans being submitted that would allow medical travellers to self-isolate in their own Fort Simpson homes.

“They’re already in a bit of a fragile state, and certainly didn’t plan the trip themselves,” Whelly told councillors. “Why make things harder for them by having to isolate them in a community far away from any supports?”

Whelly said the idea came out of a tri-council meeting with the Łı́ı́dlı̨́ı̨́ Kų́ę́ First Nation and Fort Simpson Métis Nation.

He stressed the village is not looking to become a hub in which any incoming travellers could isolate.



The change would simply allow Fort Simpson residents who have left the territory for medical reasons to self-isolate at home.

If approved, the measure as envisaged by Whelly would still see residents’ self-isolation plans being reviewed and approved by the chief public health officer. It may be that not every resident’s plan is approved, he said, and would apply only to those travelling for medical reasons.

“Let’s focus on the essential medical travel, the non-discretionary medical travel people have to go on when they’re taking treatments,” said the mayor.

The territorial government did not respond to a request for comment.

Whelly said he had heard from several Fort Simpson residents who had to self-isolate in other hubs but had what he termed dreadful experiences with aspects of their stay like meals and service.

He said those self-isolating should be treated “like they are guests in the hotel, not an inconvenience.”

“I think they have to remember they’re not there by choice, they’re there for their own health – so they are told – because they’re closer to a hospital,” Whelly said.

“Certainly, for those that continue and will have to self-isolate from our community, we hope they get treated as good as they can be.”