This is page numbers 5413 - 5452 of the Hansard for the 18th Assembly, 3rd Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was work.

Topics

Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery
Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. [English translation not provided.] Member for Kam Lake.

Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery
Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery

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Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I would like to recognize one of the Pages from Kam Lake, Ms. Tegan Konge. It is great to have her help, and it is great to have the help of all the Pages. Thank you very much for your service to the Legislative Assembly and the people of the Northwest Territories. Thank you.

Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery
Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Recognition of visitors in the gallery. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery
Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery

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Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. It is my pleasure to introduce two Pages who live in Yellowknife Centre, Leelou Cassaway and Jolin Carter. I would like to thank them for being Pages during this session and wish them the best with the remainder of the school year. Mahsi.

Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery
Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Recognition of visitors in the gallery. Item 6, acknowledgements. Item 7, oral questions. Member for Mackenzie Delta.

Question 690-18(3): Staffing for Small Community Health Centres
Oral Questions

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Frederick Blake Jr. Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In follow-up to my Member's statement, I have a few questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services. As I mentioned, we have had shortages of services in the communities that I represent, and I would like to ask the Minister: what is the cause of staff shortages in community nursing centres, such as Fort McPherson and Aklavik? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 690-18(3): Staffing for Small Community Health Centres
Oral Questions

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Question 690-18(3): Staffing for Small Community Health Centres
Oral Questions

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Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I believe that there are about 65 funded community health nurse positions across the Northwest Territories, and we run about an 18.5-percent vacancy on those. We are constantly out recruiting and trying to find nurses to come into our community health centres on a permanent basis.

Given that many of our nursing stations are small, with three or four nurses, when one of those individuals is either sick or has to leave on short notice, there are definitely some service impacts on that. When we know that individuals are leaving or coming to an end of a term, we have an opportunity to bring in locums and other individuals to cover coverage, but sometimes we do have, sort of, more surprise vacancies and those types of things. We are doing our best to make sure that the communities are aware. We are providing the information to communities when there are those sudden changes.

We do struggle, Mr. Speaker, with the recruitment of nurses to some of these advanced practice nursing roles. It is a specialty-type position, and we really need individuals with a wide range of skills. There are aren't as many of those individuals as we would like, but we keep recruiting. We will continue to recruit. I have given the department direction to anticipatory hire in these types of positions so that we can bring in as many people as we can. Until such a time as we get the number of nurses that we need with the tenure that we need, we will probably still have to rely on some locum coverage in our small communities. That is not desired, obviously; we would prefer to have a continuum, but it is a challenge. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 690-18(3): Staffing for Small Community Health Centres
Oral Questions

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Frederick Blake Jr. Mackenzie Delta

How is it decided where to send nursing staff, and what priorities are set?

Question 690-18(3): Staffing for Small Community Health Centres
Oral Questions

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Glen Abernethy Great Slave

I am only going to talk about community health nursing, because I believe that that is the focus that the Member has. When it comes to filling community health nurse positions, we are trying to fill all of the positions all of the time. When we know that there is going to be a short-term vacancy between hiring, or for a holiday leave, or one of those things, we try to find locums to go. We have a pool of locums who have identified that they are willing and are available to us, so we can bring those people in.

We don't prioritize one community or one region over the other. We want all of these community health nursing positions filled. Some of them are challenging. We have some of our locum nurses who have indicated that they prefer one region over another, and that can be challenging when the vacancies are in a different region. We are always looking to find more of those individuals who might be willing to come up on the short-term placements, but our ultimate goal is to fill all of the positions on an indeterminate basis.

Question 690-18(3): Staffing for Small Community Health Centres
Oral Questions

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Frederick Blake Jr. Mackenzie Delta

The Minister touched on this a bit earlier, but I will ask: what is the vacancy rate for nursing staff in the Beaufort-Delta Health and Social Services Authority?

Question 690-18(3): Staffing for Small Community Health Centres
Oral Questions

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Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Off the top of my head, I can't tell you what the vacancy rate is across the entire system, but with respect to community health nurses in the 65 positions that we have established, we are running at about an 18.5-percent vacancy. Many of those are filled by short-term locums to ensure that we have full coverage in communities while we continue to try and recruit on an indeterminate basis. We have fantastic health professionals out there. Some of them do choose, for any number of reasons, to move on to different opportunities, so we have a constant turnover. We do, and we will continue to, recruit and try to find individuals willing to commit some time to help us with our continuity of care.

Question 690-18(3): Staffing for Small Community Health Centres
Oral Questions

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Oral questions. Member for Mackenzie Delta.

Question 690-18(3): Staffing for Small Community Health Centres
Oral Questions

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Frederick Blake Jr. Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. What is being done to address chronic staff shortages that severely limit healthcare and treatment in small communities? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 690-18(3): Staffing for Small Community Health Centres
Oral Questions

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Glen Abernethy Great Slave

We are not in this one alone. We work with Aurora College, who runs a really fantastic Nursing Program here in the Northwest Territories. We are also working with Aurora College, who is delivering, on our behalf, what is referred to as, I am going to get the title wrong, but it is basically a rural and remote recruitment program or a training program for nurses, to help those nurses who live here develop the advanced practice skills that they need, things like diagnoses, assessments, suturing, setting bones, and those types of things, so that they can actually do the work of the community health nurses. We are working with them to get local individuals trained so that we can accommodate them and move them into the communities. Also, as I have indicated, I have already given the department direction to go out and attempt to proactively recruit some of these positions and do some anticipatory hiring.

There is what I would consider a national shortage of individuals who have this skillset. Most of them are employed in other jurisdictions if they have this skillset, so we have to entice them up here. We have one of the best compensation packages, highest salaries, great pensions, extensive benefits as far as leave packages, available. We are trying to make sure that people understand the real benefits of coming here and providing this incredibly valuable, rewarding work for the residents of the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.