COVID-19 hotline cost $2.7 million, received over 12,000 calls: GN

Hotline set to close on Jan. 31 but government website still provides coronavirus information

The Government of Nunavut spent $4,154,459.31 in total on its contract for virtual COVID-19 services for Nunavummiut. The cost of running the hotline specifically was $2,718,023.90. (Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

By Meral Jamal

The Government of Nunavut’s COVID-19 hotline — which will be shut down on Jan. 31 — has received 12,015 calls in its roughly three years of operation, according to the Department of Health.

The hotline was launched in early 2020 to answer questions specifically related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The hotline received “a variety of questions depending on what was happening with COVID-19 in Nunavut at the time,” said Victoria Morgan, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, in an email to Nunatsiaq News.

The most common themes Nunavummiut called about were:

  • isolation and self-monitoring requirements;
  • to report symptoms and request information about testing;
  • requests for information about community supports, such as food hampers;
  • COVID-19 vaccines; and
  • COVID-19 treatment, such as Paxlovid.

The COVID-19 hotline was staffed by registered nurses in Nunavut who have also been providing COVID-19 screening, contact tracing and making daily monitoring calls to people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are under isolation.

Morgan did not say how many nurses worked with the hotline, but said staff assigned to the hotline varied depending on current needs.

“Depending on the day, there could be anywhere from two to six staff working,” she said. “Management was regularly reviewing calls to see if staffing ratios were meeting the call needs.”

In 2021, the GN struck a $3-million deal with Ottawa-based health and information technology company Calian to keep its COVID-19 hotline running for the next three years. Prior to that, the hotline was run by Virtue Care Inc.

In all, Morgan said, the GN spent $4,154,459.31 on its contract for virtual COVID-19 services for Nunavummiut. The contract covered both the COVID-19 hotline and “virtual public health nurses (vPHN’s) who were deployed into all NU communities to work alongside the local staff for the purpose of case management of COVID-19.”

The cost of running the hotline specifically was $2,718,023.90 since it was launched.

In the Department of Health’s most recent update on COVID-19, provided in mid-December, chief public health officer Dr. Sean Wachtel said there were 3,155 cases reported in Nunavut during 2022, including 84 that required hospitalization.

With the hotline closing at the end of the month, Nunavummiut seeking information about the coronavirus will still be able to get it through the GN’s COVID-19 website, and can also contact a public health unit or local health care centre.

 

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(5) Comments:

  1. Posted by Wally on

    $225 per call.
    An easy but, perhaps, not the most efficient means of answering FAQs.

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  2. Posted by mary on

    As the attempts of the media in trying to persuade people how government funds were spent, this was a huge fat waste of money! It cost $225 to answer the phone. How many people actually got help from this, or was it a waste of time? Lets show with the votes… 🙂

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  3. Posted by UsefulInfo on

    It is nice to see some statistics on the number of cases and hospitalizations after the reporting on that stopped a while ago. It would be good to also know of the number of individuals who died from this virus in 2022.

    It would be nice to learn how that investment compares to other hotlines that serve Nunavut for ongoing and recurring health issues.

    The information above indicates that nurses answering the hotline were in Nunavut but the nurse I called in December 2022 was not; because of a question she asked me that suggested to me she had not lived in Nunavut before, I asked her if she was based in Nunavut and she said no. I do not mind, as she provided very useful and reasonable Covid-19 information to me, and that was what I needed.

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  4. Posted by No Tender!? on

    Was there no tender for this? At over $225 per phone call this would have been a job easily done by Inuit. My guess is CGS and Health picked their favorite consultant under auspices of “emergency” to skip the public tender process but maybe someone will prove me wrong.

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  5. Posted by 867 on

    Thats pennies compared to the isolation jail hotels we were forced to stay in before coming to Nunavut. Heard it costed over $200 MILLION dollars??

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