Feds sending 3 nurses to help fill Nunavut vacancies

9 contact tracers from Statistics Canada also assigned to the territory

Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok is seen speaking with other Canadian premiers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week, during which time he requested federal assistance for the territory to deal with the current wave of COVID-19 cases. In response, the federal government is providing three nurses and nine contact tracers. (Photo courtesy of Sima Sahar Zerehi)

By Mélanie Ritchot

The federal government is providing three nurses and nine contact tracers to help supplement a staff shortage among health-care workers in Nunavut.

The new staff is part of the federal government’s response to Premier P.J. Akeeagok’s request for assistance in handling the ongoing wave of COVID-19 cases in Nunavut. He made the request to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Jan. 10.

The nurses have experience working in Nunavut, Premier P.J. Akeeagok said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Health Minister John Main said his department is still working out details, like which communities the new nurses will be assigned to and when they will start working.

“There’s a bad need for additional nurses in many communities in Nunavut so they’ll be deployed to fill some of the gaps that exist,” Main said.

He didn’t say which communities are most in need of the nurses, but said there are currently 10 health centres reduced to emergency services only because of staff shortages.

“That can help illustrate the need that is out there for additional nurses,” he said.

Danarae Sommerville, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, said on Jan. 7 there were 30 vacant public health positions across the territory.

The nine contact tracers are Statistics Canada employees and will work from outside of the territory, Main said.

Last week, Francois de Wet, Qikiqtani General Hospital’s chief of staff, said five of eight Iqaluit lab technicians quit their jobs in November and December.

CBC reported earlier this month that the employees quit partly because they were denied a $10,000 retention bonus that was given to local nurses.

As of Jan. 14, there were three lab technicians in Rankin Inlet, as well as three fully trained technicians and a recent hire being trained in Iqaluit.

When Main was asked on Tuesday whether his department is considering giving lab techs incentives similar to what nurses received in 2021, he said he didn’t think he could speak about it at that time.

He said the department is looking for ways to show health employees they are valued in their communities, which could include monetary incentives or other methods.

“It’s really a heartfelt appreciation that I can offer at this point,” he said.

“I hope we can offer further ways to show our appreciation in the future.”

The federal government also pledged 140,000 rapid tests to the territory earlier this month, as well as N95 masks and help with ventilation in schools.

The timeline for when the rapid tests will arrive is not yet known.

Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, also said on Tuesday that a new at-home treatment for COVID-19 approved by Health Canada on Monday will be available in the territory.

The drug, made by Pfizer-BioNTech, will be sent to the territory and split up between communities according to population size, said Patterson.

Akeeagok also announced new funding for community radio stations as part of the Government of Nunavut’s response to this wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each community radio station is eligible for $15,000 of funding to help spread public health information to residents.

The total confirmed case count in Nunavut was 177 on Tuesday, with a first death of this wave of the pandemic being reported.

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(17) Comments:

  1. Posted by Tonyangmarli on

    3 nurses…all u got p.j .wher are they going ,

    • Posted by Mathew K on

      Maybe the better question is how many nurses left us and why? We are a Territory that gets significant health funding and spends significantly is there are REAL reason that we do not have enough essential health staff?

  2. Posted by Personal credit?? on

    Why does the premier’s press secretary get personal credit for this photo? Shouldn’t it be photo credit to GN? Or is this administration above such silly details?

    • Posted by iRoll on

      It’s ironic that you closed by mentioning ‘petty details’ as this entire comment just feels so petty.

      A thought, if you want to critique the new regime fine, but focus on real issues, non-sense like this is not going to move the ball anywhere for you… it may even move it backwards.

      • Posted by Stand down iRoll on

        The conduct of the government, especially members of the permiers inner circle, is worth scrutiny. At all times.

        • Posted by iRoll on

          You should learn to appreciate good advice when you see it.

      • Posted by Bigger problems? on

        If all it takes is one anonymous online comment to offend this government and roll some fictional ball backwards, then we’ve got bigger problems.

  3. Posted by Lol on

    It’s too bad they don’t ask nurses at the hospital to volunteer, many would like a break from floor nursing to do easy nursing like this.
    It’s funny they can’t get nurses from the multi million dollar nursing agency contract they have. Must be too cheap on rates.

  4. Posted by Perplexed on

    It is difficult not to reflect on our inability to attract and train nurses out of our local pools of labour. Contrasting such high rates of unemployment with such a high demand profession leaves a lot of glaring questions unanswered.

    • Posted by Brad Lemilikie on

      It does raise the question of what can become of a Territory with an inability to staff critical jobs but also hates everyone who comes. No one anywhere else has the opportunities available to Inuit in Nunavut. Nunavut needs to teach its population about other countries and how much suffering and struggle others have passed through and overcome who are many of the people that come and serve Nunavut. This nasal gazing poor me is only reinforcing this welfare state dependency allowing citizens to behave as wild animals instead of citizens in a democracy with real power.

  5. Posted by Denise on

    Please, they are Medical Lab TECHNOLOGISTS, not technicians. Technicians, also called Medical Lab Assistants, only have 12-months or less education, and a lot of times only have on-the-job training. Most Canadian trained Medical Lab TECHNOLOGISTS have an educational program that runs for 24-36+ months straight, and are in class 30-40 hours per week. They also have a clinical placement component from 15-35 weeks in an accredited diagnostic lab.
    Technicians/assistants are NOT the same as Technologists, please, if you are going to report on the profession, report on the correct professional!

    • Posted by JJazz Jeff on

      Thank you for pointing this out it is important for us to understand the full compliment of professionals working for us.

  6. Posted by Glenn Duphree on

    If I were the Reporter I would do an in depth analysis of the Department of Health. Whole units could be disposed off. The waste is epic at GN Head Quarters offices. Money is wasted like it is going out of fashion. The other side is the terrible work culture that has been created and maintained at Government of Nunavut. It is toxic and racist to anyone coming from away. I have watched us loose very good staff because of how badly they are treated. The GN must step up and accept their responsibility for creating and allowing toxic abusive work places by supporting and promoting mainly toxic and abusive people.

    • Posted by Yousef on

      There should be an internal audit at the very least. Also, the auditor general should do a report on the department, as was conducted on justice last year. Not that that one lead to anything more than a few embarrassed faces for a week or so. Back to business as usual after that.

  7. Posted by Umingmak on

    Neither nurses nor lab techs should be getting gifts of taxpayer dollars handed to them simply for doing their jobs.

    • Posted by Capitalism on

      If the GN doesn’t pay, nurses and other professionals will leave or not come to begin with. Do you really think people are here for the lifestyle perks? Thousands of Inuit have moved to Ottawa for good reason. Your jealousy over professionals being in demand serves no purpose but your ego. I for one want to go to a hospital and have someone there.

    • Posted by Aasi on

      With the amount of bs they have to deal with from both internally and dealing with the ungrateful intoxicated public, they deserve every penny. Are you out working 60 hours of overtime a week swabbing patrons of the beer and wine store?


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