Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to update the Members of this House on the GNWT's ongoing efforts to recruit and retain health and social service professionals in the NWT. Mr. Speaker, we are all aware of the challenges we face with respect to the recruitment and retention of health and social service professionals in the north. This problem is particularly true with respect to nurses, who make up almost 85 percent of the health care workers in our health and social services system.
The NWT has unique needs when it comes to nursing professionals. Nurses are the first point of contact with the health and social services system for many northerners. Northern nurses must have specialized training and skills to provide the wider range of services expected of them. Nurses with the kind of training and experience we need are also being actively recruited by other Canadian jurisdictions. In other words Mr. Speaker, we are competing for a specialized pool of nurses who are in more demand than ever before.
Mr. Speaker, turnover and vacancy rates for nurses in the NWT are increasing, particularly in smaller communities. In the long term, high turnover and vacancy rates may result in decreased quality of care, increased workload for remaining staff and increased medical travel costs. We need a stable workforce to ensure that the quality of health care in the NWT is maintained. Mr. Speaker, this government recognizes that it must take action to protect the high quality of health care now provided to residents of the NWT. In Monday's budget speech, the Minister of Finance, the Honourable Charles Dent, announced it is proposed over the next two years, that an additional $3 million will be allocated to the recruitment and retention of nurses in the NWT. Incentives created with this funding will help us attract and retain nurses in the NWT. We will also use this funding to encourage more northerners to enter the nursing profession.