Lack of first response ‘a growing concern,’ says MLA

In many communities across the Northwest Territories, when someone in medical distress calls 9-1-1, there’s no ambulance to take them to the local health centre.

The MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wıı̀lıı̀deh says the lack of emergency response in communities is a “glaring gap” in the territory’s health care system that is “endangering many northerners.” 

Steve Norn made the comments in the Legislative Assembly on Friday. He noted that in many communities, residents have to be transported to the local health centre by the RCMP or another community member as health centre staff are prohibited from responding to emergency medical calls.


“It really is a growing concern,” he said. 

According to Norn, in June of 2020, an Elder in Deninu Kue – Fort Resolution – died after nurses were unable to respond to their medical emergency, even though the Elder was less than a few hundred metres from the health centre. He added that his riding had more recently lost a resident who “could very well have been still with us if there was a swift response to attend to their emergency.”

“I do understand the need to protect our local medical staff to prevent them from being put into comprising situations,” Norn said.

“However, I strongly feel that Health and Social Services needs to step up their game and work with our communities to help prepare them in what to do in the event of an emergency.”

Health and Social Services Minister Julie Green acknowledged that the lack of ambulances and first responders in many communities is a problem.


She said, however, the issue falls under the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs. 

“I know it’s a longstanding problem that I have heard questions asked in the House during this sitting about, and my colleague has said that she is working on it,” she said, referring to Municipal and Community Affairs Minister Paulie Chinna.