‘I can’t understate the challenge’ to attract docs, says Health Minister

Monfwi MLA Jane Armstrong questions Health Minister Caitlin Cleveland in the Assembly on Thursday. (Livestream image.)

In the NWT Legislative Assembly on Thursday, Monfwi MLA Jane Jane Armstrong raised the issue of poor-quality health-care in smaller communities.

The MLA appeared to reference the unexpected death of Monfwi’s Rachel Simpson on Tuesday in an Edmonton hospital after allegedly being told on the weekend by Lac La Marte Health Centre staff to take Tylenol for her pain and clear discomfort.

“There have been dozens of stories, stories over the years of health centers, prescribing Tylenol to very sick, or even dying individuals seeking medical attention, only to be dismissed or minimized and unheard.

“Does the Minister agree that Tylenol is being over-prescribed to residents in our smaller communities?”

Health Minister Lesa Semmler in the NWT Assembly (Livestream image.)

Health Minister Lesa Semmler had earlier made a lengthy statement about the challenges the territory faces attracting and retaining doctors and nurses. Replying to the MLA, Minister Semmler held little back.

She said she can’t comment on individual cases in this house. But every report that every time there’s a complaint, they are looked into.

“I can’t understate the challenge that we face in the Northwest Territories. I assure that this house that we are actively working to improve health care, I’ve had many discussions with my staff and other members, and one of the discussions that I have been having is, you know, ensuring that we’re looking at the communities and the model that we’re providing in the communities.

“And that is something that I will be focusing on, during my time as the Minister of Health is how, you know, the how do we support smaller communities.”

Other issues touched on during the last Oral Questions session for a while were: Land leases (Range Lake MLA Kieron Testart), diabetes rates and treatments (YK Centre MLA Robert Hawkins); the Slave Geological Province development (YK North MLA Shauna Morgan); and crime on the streets of Yellowknife and funding for the Spruce Bough transitional living facility (Frame Lake MLA Julian Morse).

Premier RJ Simpson in NWT Assembly. (Livestream image.)

Great Slave MLA Kate Reid asked Premier RJ Simpson what the NWT can do to show support for a cease fire in the Israel-Hamas War.

“In what ways can the premier commit to acting on upholding human rights in Gaza on behalf of the residents of the NWT?”

The premier replied:

“I have no policy mechanisms to impact what is happening in Gaza. But that being said, the Northwest Territories does work with the federal government when it comes to immigration.

“And so, I know the federal government has implemented some changes to their processes. And the Northwest Territories Nominee Program, which is our side of that immigration process is doing what it can to help expedite applications for those who are coming from impacted regions.”

However, as Cabin Radio reported, later on Thursday after Oral Questions, MLAs managed to pass a non-binding motion asking Premier Simpson to write to Ottawa calling for  a ceasefire, the release of all hostages, unhindered access to humanitarian aid, and action to uphold Canada’s obligations under the Genocide Convention.

The MLAs are now on an extended break in the constituencies for March Break activities.


About the Author

James O'Connor
James O’Connor joined CKLB 101.9 FM at the start of 2024, after working as a journalist, photo editor and managing editor at newspapers in Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. James also has experience in politics, arts, service clubs and the NWT’s non-profit sector. At this point in his lengthy career, James is thrilled to be working at such a unique media outlet and always welcomes notes from listeners at: james.oconnor@cklbradio.com.