Health

Alberta says some NWT surgeries may be delayed, cancelled


Some elective surgeries due to take place in Alberta may be delayed or cancelled, the NWT’s health minister told residents on Monday.

Residents of the NWT routinely travel to Alberta for a range of procedures. However, Alberta’s healthcare system is being strained by a surge in Covid-19 cases.

There are nearly 10,000 active Covid-19 cases in Alberta as of Monday afternoon. Almost 1,000 new cases were confirmed on Sunday alone.

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The province says 262 people are currently in hospital with Covid-19 symptoms.

NWT health minister Julie Green said the territory was “closely monitoring the situation” as she provided an update by email on Monday.

Green said Alberta Health Services had, earlier that day, “advised that some elective procedures may be delayed or cancelled.”

The minister said the territorial government would work with Alberta to reschedule procedures “when circumstances allow.”

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The territory and province have an agreement whereby NWT residents are “considered equally to Alberta residents,” in the minister’s words, regarding access to health services.

Green said Alberta had “confirmed that this relationship will continue to be honoured.”

The number of surgeries affected to date was not provided.

While Covid-19 is not currently such a concern for the NWT’s health centres, the territory is facing its own problems carrying out surgeries.

Three equipment sterilizers at Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife have been malfunctioning since late July. As of early November, the problem remained unsolved and had forced the delay or cancellation of more than 100 surgeries.

The NWT had already ruled out sending people south to Alberta if their Stanton surgeries were affected by the sterilizer problem, given the scale of the province’s Covid-19 spike.

Green said the territory’s health authority was now urging all medical staff to “carefully consider all non-urgent referrals to Alberta” and use virtual care where possible.

“If NWT residents choose not to receive services in Alberta due to Covid-19 concerns they should contact their health care provider immediately,” Green wrote. “Additionally, residents who receive any pushback from health providers in Alberta should contact their local health care provider immediately so they can help rectify the situation.”

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