The NWT’s health minister said she is thankful after the territory’s physicians raised concerns with proposed changes to virtual care.
Last week, the NWT Medical Association objected to changes that would allow practitioners licensed elsewhere in Canada to provide virtual care to NWT residents from outside the territory.
The association supported allowing NWT physicians to make referrals to practitioners elsewhere, but said allowing any licensed physician in Canada to apply for a virtual NWT licence – regardless of their connection to or knowledge of the territory – could be “potentially harmful to the quality and cultural safety of patient care in the NWT.”
Health minister Julie Green told Cabin Radio the association’s recommendations were “constructive” and pointed out unintended consequences of the legislation. She said the committee of MLAs tasked with reviewing Bill 40, which proposes the alterations to virtual care, would incorporate that feedback.
“I appreciate the feedback the doctors have provided and I’m looking forward to meeting with them so I am sure I fully understand their concerns,” Green said, “and that the bill reflects those concerns, so we can provide the safest and best patient care to residents in the NWT.
“That is the objective we all have and what we’re sorting out is how to get there.”
The committee reviewing the bill was this week granted an extension of its review period until May 27.
The minister said the bill is intended to improve care for patients in the NWT by allowing them to virtually meet with physicians outside the territory, rather than having to fly to Edmonton for a 15-minute appointment or consultation.
During the pandemic, Green said, a ministerial directive allowed physicians licensed outside the NWT to provide virtual care to NWT residents. With the public health emergency ending, she said, permanent legislative changes are needed to provide regulations for virtual care.
Bill 40 passed its second reading in November 2021 before it was sent for review. The bill needs to pass a third reading before becoming law.