Health-care staff shortage a ‘crisis,’ MLA proposes task force

Yellowknife North MLA Shauna Morgan during Oral Questions today. George Nerysoo, MLA for Mackenzie Delta, is seated at left. (Photo courtesy Assembly Livestream.)

Health care is in crisis and housing is in peril.

And a forest fire is moving north slowly, now 75 kilometres from Fort Resolution.

Those were some of the top-of-mind topics raised by Regular MLAs in Oral Questions session today.

Shauna Morgan represents the riding of Yellowknife North:

“It’s clear that at our territorial hospital, Stanton, we have a crisis on our hands,” she said.

“Particularly since COVID, we’ve demanded more and more from our frontline health workers. Staff have quit due to inadequate support and relocated to Alberta.

“And we have increasingly relied on expensive agency nurses to keep services open. The staff that remain feel increasingly taken for granted and under supported.

“There’s been a downward spiral in morale alongside an upward spiral in costs and inefficiencies.”

Morgan suggested the establishment of a task force, of two to three people who would act as “navigators and brokers of solutions for front-line staff to address the low-hanging fruit causing the greatest frustrations amongst healthcare workers, especially when it comes to workplace policies and procedures and labour relations.”

Range Lake MLA Kieron Testart continued the health-care conversation, stating that the staffing situation at Stanton Territorial Hospital is “rapidly becoming a full-blown crisis. Testart said the GNWT spent $4.4 million last year on private agency nurses. He noted that of 84 non-agency, regular nurses hired last year, 69 have left.

Health Minister Lesa Semmler responded that currently there are “just five agency nurses,” and all in obstetrics. She said recruitment and retention have been problematic since the global pandemic.

Richard Edjericon, MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh, in the Assembly today. (Photo courtesy Assembly Livestream.)

Some other issues to note:

· Richard Edjericon, MLA for Tu Nedhe Wiilideh, noted MACA has been responsible for the operation of Fort Resolution government for one year, but has not produced an emergency plan. This as a fire burned down four houses over the weekend and “we don’t want to have a repeat of what Happened in Enterprise.” Edjericon also asked if MACA will work with community to have homes re-built. As for the firefighters injured over the weekend – one broke his hip, the other has trouble breathing — Edjericon inquired about compensation for the loss of work.

· Sheryl Yakeleya , MLA for Dehcho, said: “The state of housing in the North is in peril.” And she zeroed in her concern for elders and the hardship they face to pay for their homes. She noted many elders in her region signed agreements with NWT Housing that, in many cases, they did not fully understand. They struggled to make housing payments on the limited income they have and now face collections from being in arears.

· George Nerysoo MLA for Mackenzie Delta, made it known Aklavik’s access road is in threat of falling into the Peel Channel due to shoreline erosion. He noted that Tuktoyaktuk has the same issue with Arctic Ocean shoreline erosion, and has received some government help.


NOTE: The original version of this story incorrectly identified MLA Nerysoo’s riding. 


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: