Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, by April of this year, my office began hearing from residents regarding the escalating burnout, stress, and fatigue amongst nurses in the NWT. Issues raised included understaffing, the preferential treatment of locums, stress due to working closely with southerners, and having to use leave time to isolate for two weeks if they should travel out of the territory.
Over the subsequent months, we continued to be contacted by several constituents and other residents with personal concerns regarding the conditions they had encountered at Stanton that they saw as resulting from burnout and stress.
In early November, all Members of this Assembly received a letter from several healthcare professionals stating that these issues were reaching critical mass which would likely result in decreased healthcare capacity.
This letter echoed the earlier concerns that had been brought forward to my office's attention highlighting burnout, loss of vacation, feeling overworked, and a lack of compensation for the increased hazard faced due to COVID.
Yesterday while we were sitting in this Chamber, Members were informed that birthing in Yellowknife would now be redirected to Edmonton despite our brand new, state-of-the-art hospital meaning that several families would now be extremely disrupted with very little notice expected to travel during a global pandemic.
Yesterday the Minister of Health also tabled a document that highlighted the concerns of nurses and answered some of their questions; however, what the document also highlighted is what one of the barriers to providing nurses with the accommodations they are asking for is the collective agreement.
In the Northwest Territories, nurses are part of the same collective agreement as any other GNWT employee. Therefore, it is difficult to accommodate the special circumstances that only nurses encounter. All civil servants are considered the same under the Public Service Act. This puts the Department of Health and Social Services in an awkward position. They have been tasked with increasing the number of healthcare professionals by 20 percent as per the 19th Assembly's list of priorities.
What was already set to be a difficult task has only become near impossible as we deal with COVID and the ensuing pandemic. Throw in mounting concerns raised by those same professionals, we are now poised to actually have less healthcare workers at the end of this Assembly than we started with.
Perhaps it is time that we treat our healthcare professionals with the care that they deserve, time to look at what can be done in order to ensure that we are always looking after them the way that they have always looked after us.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.