Sending dozens of families south to give birth is expected to cost half a million dollars in Alberta hospital and physician fees, the NWT government says.
Ninety families are heading to Alberta after labour and delivery service at Yellowknife’s hospital was suspended until at least February because too few staff are available.
A fresh costing of that closure, tabled in the NWT legislature this week, does however conclude that the associated medical travel will cost the territorial government less than initially reported.
In late November – based on a territorial government figure of $12,500 to cover travel, accommodation, and meals for each person and one escort – Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson suggested the territory could be on the hook for up to $1.1 million in those expenses alone.
The territory now says not all of those costs will be incurred by the GNWT. Some will be covered by federal benefits programs, some by employer benefits plans, and some by co-payments made by the affected individuals.
In a December 8 letter to Johnson, health minister Julie Green says that means the GNWT actually expects to directly pay $186,000 in travel and accommodation costs, not $1.1 million.
However, the territory will miss out on $110,000 in revenue from 12 non-NWT residents who had been set to give birth in Yellowknife, Green said. Ordinarily, the cost of those births would be billed back to the person’s home province or territory.
In a similar vein, the NWT forecasts its healthcare system will have to pay Alberta $507,000 to cover the cost of hospitals and physicians delivering babies that should have been born in Yellowknife between now and February.
In all, Green’s latest estimate is that the cost of the birthing crisis to the NWT healthcare system will be $803,000.