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Health
Politics

MLAs given more time to review virtual care bill after opposition


Northwest Territories MLAs will take more time to review proposed virtual healthcare changes after the territory’s medical association raised objections.

Health minister Julie Green last year introduced Bill 40, which would allow medical practitioners licensed elsewhere in Canada to provide virtual care to NWT residents from beyond the territory. 

The NWT Medical Association subsequently took issue with plans to allow physicians anywhere in Canada to apply for a virtual NWT licence. The association said that could worsen healthcare inequity in the NWT and potentially increase costs to the territory’s healthcare system, with no benefit.

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“Fundamentally, we believe that Bill 40 will be detrimental to the healthcare of NWT residents and should not be passed unless it is significantly amended,” the association stated earlier this month.

On Monday, the standing committee of MLAs tasked with reviewing the bill sought an extension of its review period “to allow further consideration” – including more public consultation.

A motion passed in the legislature will now give the committee until May 27, 2022 to complete that review.

The bill has already had two of the three readings required in the legislature to become law. Ordinarily, a bill passes to regular MLAs for a 120-day review period after two readings.

In a news release, the Standing Committee on Social Development – chaired by Kam Lake MLA Caitlin Cleveland – said recent concerns had come “near the end of the committee’s review period” and so an extension was required.

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The news release did not mention the NWT Medical Association, nor the precise concerns that necessitated an extension. Instead, the committee said the NWT government’s Department of Health and Social Services had “identified issues with the bill that could require substantial amendments.”

Speaking in support of the review extension, Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly said in the legislature: “The department has a lot of work to do, I believe, with medical professionals. I look forward to the results of those consultations.”

In its news release, the committee stated it was “willing to work collaboratively with the Minister of Health and Social Services to try to make improvements to the bill and is seeking an extension of [its] review period.

The news release concluded: “The committee intends to reopen public consultation on the bill and report back to the House during the upcoming May-June sitting of the Assembly.”

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