6 staff at Arviat elders home test positive for COVID-19

Andy Aulatjut Centre still staffed enough to run despite worker shortage

Six staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Andy Aulatjut Centre in Arviat, but no elders have been affected by the virus so far. (File photo by Sarah Rogers)

By Mélanie Ritchot

Six staff members at the Andy Aulatjut Centre elders home in Arviat have tested positive for COVID-19, Nunavut’s Health Minister John Main said at a news conference on Tuesday.

“I know many in Arviat are wondering about the elders facility, Main said, addressing residents of the community, which he partially represents as MLA for Arviat North and Whale Cove.

Main said none of the elders at the facility have tested positive for COVID-19 or been identified as high-risk contacts.

He said because the home is an assisted living facility, the elders are relatively independent and have less direct interaction with staff.

The staff members with COVID-19 were identified through contact tracing before testing positive for the virus.

The elders centre, which has eight beds, still has enough staff to operate with casual workers covering shifts, Main said.

Other areas of the health system aren’t so lucky.

“We are in bad need of human assistance,” Main said about the current Nunavut-wide staffing shortage.

The Department of Health recently brought in more remote staff to help reduce wait times at the COVID-19 hotline, Main said, but staff in other areas of public health are spread thin.

Main took the time to thank health staff and support staff for their hard work over the last few weeks.

“We are very appreciative of staff members who are still with the department.”

In Iqaluit, five of eight lab technicians who process COVID-19 tests quit their jobs in November and December, Francois de Wet, the Qikiqtani General hospital chief of staff, confirmed in an email.

Patterson said only one of those vacant positions has since been filled.

Main said the Department of Health has been attempting to hire more, but the specialized skills needed to work these jobs are highly sought after across Canada.

“Our capacity in terms of lab technicians is a major issue in terms of how we can respond to COVID,” he said.

This is exactly why the premier recently requested the federal government’s help in staffing, Main added.

Premier P.J. Akeeagok said he took part in a virtual meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other Canadian premiers on Monday.

He said it’s clear the country is in a critical situation based on what he heard from other premiers.

“Resources such as nurses, lab capacity and health-care staff are limited right across this country,” Akeeagok said during Tuesday’s COVID-19 update.

Akeeagok said he took the opportunity to emphasize how much Nunavut needs help with filling nursing positions and lab tech positions at the meeting.

Announcements on ministers’ plans to address COVID-19 within their departments are also coming soon, he said.

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(2) Comments:

  1. Posted by Pork Pie on

    I believe they call this baptism by fire, welcome to your new portfolio Minister Main.. I have confidence in you. Best of luck.

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    • Posted by hermann kliest on

      This government appears to be very weak, all chosen because of friendship and support in the past, we even lost a veteran Minister of finance. Nepotism is bad for public offices. It’s going to be four long years…

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