This is page numbers 1035 - 1054 of the Hansard for the 19th Assembly, 2nd 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 health.

Topics

Question 294-19(2): Protect NWT
Oral Questions

Page 1041

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Since issuing the first public health order on March 21st, Protect Northwest Territories has responded to over 12,000 phone calls. We have processed over 5,300 self-isolation plans, and we have responded to more than 9,000 emails. On an average basis, Protect Northwest Territories receives about 144 calls a day. Currently, the call and email volumes remain very high, and staffing is a priority to meet the demands. Calls and emails received related to self-isolation requirements for residents and essential service workers, compliance, enforcement, requests for information about orders, requests for exceptional-circumstance approvals, and redirecting enquiries to other pandemic response services. Any time there is a compliance concern, the case gets forwarded to the compliance and enforcement task force. In the last week, we have had 52 cases around self-isolation and travel restriction concerns, 10 concerns on gatherings, and 31 public health enquiries from businesses.

Question 294-19(2): Protect NWT
Oral Questions

Page 1041

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

That was a mouthful. Response time by Protect NWT has been an issue, so I would ask the Minister: have we added or considered adding additional staff to Protect NWT to address the slow response time to questions because, evidently, there are a lot of requests?

Question 294-19(2): Protect NWT
Oral Questions

Page 1042

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Mr. Speaker, having the necessary human resource support is very crucial to Protect NWT and the compliance enforcement task force being able to carry out mandates successfully, especially in a timely manner, and staffing is a priority for Protect Northwest Territories. The original team was largely made up of a small group of GNWT employees who were redeployed to assist with this component of the COVID-19 response work. With GNWT employees returning to positions, it has been difficult as hiring is a combination of casual positions and mature summer student positions. Staffing actions are not only to replace the GNWT workers but also to add to the team, given the workload demands. I do want to add that our department wishes to acknowledge the contributions of these redeployed GNWT employees and also thank them for their skills and passion in this area of work and coming to work for our department from other areas within the GNWT.

Question 294-19(2): Protect NWT
Oral Questions

Page 1042

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

I think we all appreciate the work that the staff has done, as well. Mr. Speaker, if we are to open our borders at some point, it is imperative that the responsible department consider increasing our monitoring enforcement staff in communities at NWT entry points. This is crucial. Once the borders open, will the Minister commit to additional staff being added to monitoring and enforcement staff?

Question 294-19(2): Protect NWT
Oral Questions

Page 1042

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

We have no plans to lift travel restrictions any time soon. We do recognize that we do need to accommodate those protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and we also need to ensure that the Northwest Territories residents have access to essential services, often provided by those who are travelling from other jurisdictions. I would also agree with the Member that ensuring that we have the necessary staffing is crucial to our continued efforts to reduce the public health risk of COVID-19 to Northwest Territories residents. The department has a better understanding of where the pressure points are in implementing and enforcing the Chief Public Health Officer's orders, having had time now to review some operations. The Office of the Chief Public Health Officer will be looking at all GNWT departments for some support to make this adjustment.

Question 294-19(2): Protect NWT
Oral Questions

Page 1042

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary, Member for Hay River South.

Question 294-19(2): Protect NWT
Oral Questions

Page 1042

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As I said in my statement, I constantly receive calls from constituents about southern workers coming into the NWT and not self-isolating, not self-monitoring, and not wearing proper PPE. Residents are becoming short tempered and discouraged at what is taking place. We need added staff to monitor and provide enforcement in Hay River. Can the Minister provide me with some guidance as to what I can tell the residents of Hay River to alleviate their concerns about those not self-isolating and how they will be dealt with?

Question 294-19(2): Protect NWT
Oral Questions

Page 1042

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Currently, the default is that essential service workers must self-isolate when they travel within the Northwest Territories. However, employers can apply for their workers to be exempt from this self-isolation requirements if they take other necessary measures and get special approval from the Chief Public Health Officer. Supply chain workers can be in the Northwest Territories for less than 36 hours. They must socially distance while they're here, but they do not need to self-isolate while working. This could include truckers who are coming, unload their goods that are being delivered, get something to eat, turn around, and get to their point of origin. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 294-19(2): Protect NWT
Oral Questions

Page 1042

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Thebacha.

Question 295-19(2): COVID-19 Pandemic
Oral Questions

Page 1042

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Given the NWT has allocated $23 million from the federal government for the COVID-19 pandemic, I'd like to know in detail about how the allocated funds and expenditures were spent. Can the Minister provide some specific details in how this money was spent? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 295-19(2): COVID-19 Pandemic
Oral Questions

Page 1042

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Question 295-19(2): COVID-19 Pandemic
Oral Questions

Page 1043

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As the Minister of Finance identified on her May 27th statement, we're all fortunate that Canada has provided $23 million to support the GNWT's response to offset some of the costs related to the COVID-19. A grant agreement was finalized with the Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada on May 11, 2020. The $23.4 million from CIRNAC is to assist the GNWT with the COVID-related costs on the health system. In discussions with Canada, it was indicated that they will be flexible on how funding can be utilized as long as it is substantial, and the costs were incremental due to COVID-19. Department of Finance is working with department and public agencies to track all the incremental costs that are due to this pandemic. The most recent projections for the GNWT is almost $39 million in COVID-related costs, of which $13.9 is specifically related to some of the health system response. The projection for the health system is also based on the current level of response that is associated to the end of September. The Department of Health and Social Service's authorities are continuing to actively monitor some of their costs. The current projected costs specifically for the health system include new or expanded programs, service and supplies directly to support COVID response such as services to vulnerable population, Protect NWT 811 call centres, the COVID compliance and enforcement task team, screeners at the hospitals, public health units, virtual care, rapid testing tools, drive-through testing, and more.

Question 295-19(2): COVID-19 Pandemic
Oral Questions

Page 1043

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

I expect a detailed accounting of the $23 million at some point during the time of our government. How is the Department of Health and Social Services preparing the regional centres and small communities for the second wave of COVID-19?

Question 295-19(2): COVID-19 Pandemic
Oral Questions

Page 1043

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

There have been daily meetings with the regional teams to prepare for the COVID-19 response in small communities. Education and training include COVID testing procedures, infection prevention and control measures, point of care, risk assessment, and more. Additionally, there are regular service and staffing updates provided to the territorial operation, a scan easily to assess situation in any community if there is a requirement for support.

Question 295-19(2): COVID-19 Pandemic
Oral Questions

Page 1043

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Does the Department of Health and Social Services have a plan to ensure that regional centres and small community nursing stations are considered in the master plan to ensure our residents are safe for both mental and physical health?