Shortage of trained nurses means Endoscopy services on hold at new Stanton Hospital

Stanton Territorial Hospital. (File photo/CKLB)

Patients requiring endoscopy services at Yellowknife’s new Stanton Territorial Hospital are out of luck – at least for now.

The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSSA) is advising residents that endoscopy services, which were closed as part of the transition to the new Stanton Territorial Hospital, will continue to be closed due to movement of staff from the endoscopy program to other opportunities within the health and social services system.

Endoscopy is a procedure used to examine a person’s digestive tract using an endoscope, a flexible tube with a light and camera attached to it.

Stanton Hospital delivers the majority of endoscopy services within the NWT.

According to a NWT government news release, nurses supporting the delivery of endoscopy services require specialized skills and a recent shortage of those nurses has led to Stanton’s temporary inability to deliver this service.

The main impact to NWT residents will be possible increases in referrals to other care sites for endoscopy services including Alberta.

Referrals will now be based on how urgently patients require the procedure.

The health authority is working with Alberta Health Services to coordinate immediate training of nurses within the endoscopy program – this requires nursing staff to travel to Alberta for hands-on training.

In addition to enhanced training the NTHSSA is actively working to hire locum nurses to support delivery of endoscopy services in Yellowknife while Stanton staff complete their training.

The NTHSSA classifies endoscopy procedures into three categories:

  • Emergent: requiring the procedure as soon as possible. These patients are being referred to Alberta; this was often the case even when Stanton is providing endoscopy services.
  • Urgent: requiring the procedure in a range from a few days to a few weeks. These patients mostly received services in Stanton and will now be referred to Alberta, if appropriate.
  • Elective & Non-Urgent: Some of these patients may have been referred to Alberta but if the triage protocol in Alberta also classifies these cases as non-urgent they will be managed in the Northwest Territories. These are patients who have been offered the procedure as an option to further explore concerns about their health or who require a follow up of a non-urgent nature. These will be handled on a case-by-case basis with some deferred until endoscopy services are reinstated if appropriate. Some of these patients may have their services delivered in Hay River or Inuvik.

“The NTHSSA is working hard to look at all options to resume endoscopy services at Stanton Territorial Hospital, this includes working to immediately increase capacity through staff training, targeted recruitment activities, and looking at alternative staffing options such as temporary locum staff,” states Sue Cullen, CEO of the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority. “Timely access to care is a priority and ensuring we have sufficient specialized staff to deliver this service is critical. In the meantime, we will continue to ensure access to endoscopy services for our patients by referring them out to partner care sites for services.”


About the Author

John McFadden
John has been in the broadcast journalism industry since the 1980s. He has been a reporter in Yellowknife since 2012 and joined CKLB in January of 2018. John covers the crime and court beat as well as reporting on other areas including politics, business, entertainment and sports. He won seven national community newspaper awards while he was a journalist with Northern News Services Limited (NNSL). John worked in Ontario before coming North including stints as a TV sportscaster in Peterborough and senior news writer for CBC and CTV in downtown Toronto.