That parent you taught how to administer life-saving drugs to their overdosing teen, or that caller you walked through providing CPR to their family member for 23 minutes straight when first responders were already on another call. Did those people survive?
Mr. Speaker, I am truly worried about 911 dispatcher burnout. Only five staff are funded, so there is only one 911 dispatcher on duty per 12-hour shift, answering over 60 calls a day. The Med Response program dispatchers who are to provide support to 911 often are too busy on their own calls or don't have dispatchers on shift. As a result, the 911 staff have to do a lot of extra shifts or double shifts. At times, 911 has been so short-staffed that the dispatcher on duty doesn't get meal or break times and has to run to the bathroom hoping a call does not come in.
The last government, desperate to get 911 costs below the $1.70 per month subscriber fee, cut everything possible from the budget, even relief staff. The 911 program was directed to come back after the first six months of operation with a budget based on actuals, not projections. NWT 911 did return with a zero-based budget, asking only for two more staff, relief funding, and systems funding. The program would offer a total of seven full-time dispatchers. This right-sizing of the 911 budget was rejected by Finance, as 911 had not been operational for at least one year. As such, 911 continues with only five dispatchers, one dispatcher per shift. Besides answering 911 calls, 911 dispatchers dispatch Inuvik ambulance and Norman Wells fire; do officer safety with highway patrol; issue public safety alerts; monitor sea, land, and air emergency radio frequencies; and take 811 calls. That's right; when callers dial 811 and press number 5, they are connected to the 911 dispatcher providing an 811 scripted script.
Mr. Speaker, it's almost shameful. The COVID-19 secretariat 811 has nine operators, three nurses, four relief positions, and one manager position. They do not provide service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, as 911 does. According to my constituents, callers can never get through to anyone, and I know that because I've called myself on somebody in my yard. Well, unless they press number 5 and get the 911 dispatcher. In fact, some community chiefs have called the 911 emergency line simply to get through to someone for answers, because they could not get through to anyone at 911.
Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Minister of MACA about why this government continues to undervalue and underfund the 911 service, a service that is clearly saving NWT residents' lives while free-flowing funding to COVID 811. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.