Nurse shortage forces summertime closures, service cuts at 8 Nunavut health centres
More changes could come depending on staffing levels, Health Department says
Updated July 19 at 9:49 a.m.
Due to a shortage of nurses, two health centres in Nunavut will close completely during the summer while six will see reduced services with a shift toward a focus on emergencies.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and a nationwide shortage of health-care staff have made the recruitment of nurses into the territory very difficult,” Minister of Health Lorne Kusugak said in a news release his department issued Friday.
The centres in Grise Fiord and Resolute — the territory’s two smallest communities with populations of 140 and 218 — will close completely in mid-August, the Health Department stated in the release.
No end dates are listed for those temporary closures.
Taloyoak’s centre will close except for emergencies for two weeks between July 30 and Aug 13, while Sanikiluaq’s will experience the same change for almost a month, from July 26 to Aug 31.
In Kugaaruk, the health centre will be closed except for emergencies for two weeks between Aug. 1 and15, service at Clyde River’s will be reduced from Aug. 9 to 24 while Naujaat will see reduced services from Aug. 12 to 31.
Baker Lake’s health centre is currently closed except for emergency services and is expected to enter a state of reduced services on July 22, Danarae Sommerville, a spokesperson for the department, wrote in an email.
As of June 30, there were 163 vacant nursing positions. Sommerville said eight of these are due to someone acting in another role and six are on transfer assignments.
There are 39 vacant community health nurse positions, and 17 vacant nurse practitioner positions, Sommerville stated.
With the changes, the department is working to ensure Nunavummiut have access to the health services they need during this disruption, according to the release.
In communities with unavailable or limited health services, the department will use a combination of virtual health, fly-in clinics and paramedic services to support patients, the news release stated.
Calls to the health centres will be directed to virtual support services and some may be automatically forwarded to other communities.
Support staff will still be providing services filling prescriptions, but there could be delays in communities affected by staff shortages.
Virtual public health staff and paramedics will still be able to respond to the introduction of COVID-19 to a community if that happens and will provide testing and contact tracing if needed.
Paramedics and licensed practical nurses will still be available to give vaccines by appointment.
Service reductions and closures could change again based on staffing levels, the release said.
Bayshore Healthcare entered a muti-year contract to be the GN’s main provider of nurses and midwives in March of this year.
This partnership and hiring over the last few weeks allowed the Department of Health to avoid having to close more health centres during this summer, but some closures may be necessary if staffing levels change, the release stated.
With files from David Venn
Correction: This story has been updated to clarify who can administer vaccines.
Great news, now we can put all the nurses and doctors who have been ignored and are living in our small communities to work, finally… less southerners and more Inuit being paid, how wonderful!
I assume that you are being sarcastic, but I’m not sure.
I understand staffing larger communities but in the same way, the smallest and most remote has special conditions , example isolation. Rather than Resolute with links to other communities, Grise F should retain a nurse.
put out more incentives for nurses to go to school now. double FANS or GN to provide funding towards housing for anyone in Nursing. Think outside the box .
it is unbelieveable to think that Grise Fiord was chosen as one place to not have a nurse. anywhere else but such isolation! RETHINK!
The GN only has so much say…if the nurses don’t want to go to Grise, then Grise doesn’t have a nurse. Communities have different reputations that affect their desirability.
Interesting decision to close both Grise and Resolute completely, that’s pretty drastic, folks there are not going to be happy.
Senior management has been targeting experienced nurses with perfectionist harassment for the past couple of years (or longer, but it got worse around then) and I guess it’s starting to have a compounded effect, as once too many of the experienced nurses who love and understand the north are gone, the job becomes almost impossible for new hires who have never worked in the north, and they don’t stay due to the stress. As well, there are easier places to work with far better climate that are targeting the travelling nurses who used to work in Nunavut, and are treating them better.
Patients have also become unrealistically demanding and more abusive of the nurses in recent years. People resent that casual nurses don’t stay in the community, “and only come to make money”, but communities are so demanding towards their nurses that it’s almost impossible to stay long term, the job takes a huge physical and mental toll from overwork and lack of sleep. As well, racism towards non-inuit has been going up, and activists have convinced people that outsiders are horrible colonialists, so that is kind of a disincentive for nurses too. Even the woke nurses who think they’re the allies that will turn things around don’t stay once reality starts contradicting their activist indoctrination.
Nunavut has been using agency nurses for a long time, so Bayshore getting the contract this time won’t change much. They’ve had it before, and they are a capable and good employer, but it’s not exactly a game-changer.
All of the points presented here are correct, but I would like to point a few things out.
1. Grise is a 2 nurse station, and should be regarded as a canary in the coal mine. The GN is unable to shift a single nurse there? Should be telling.
2. Bayshore is legendary in the south for poor working conditions and hours. It is not a good company. It operates on the concept that quantity has a quality all its own. The meat grinder approach used by agencies in the south cannot work in the north. Many nurses go up once, end up burnt out, and not only never return but tell friends not to go.
3. Bayshore has the exclusive contract, which muscled out the four other agencies that worked in Nunavut. They barely kept up with demand.
4. The GN tends to try and force new nurses into 3 month contracts. Not too many nurses are willing to be apart from their kids and partners for that long, further limiting the pool of willing applicants.
5. Wages have been rising in response of nursing shortages in the south, meaning it is no longer as lucrative to head north, and many nurses are finding it increasingly hard to justify the headaches and logistics of going north into frustrated communities.
A big crunch is coming as contracts run out over the summer. Expect further closures.
Sadly, accurate; but well said, Exile
The canary in the coal mine. This is just the tip of the iceberg. People will be generally unhappy but over the summer lots of folks out on the land so no big deal. Right? Fully expect to see people lose their frigging minds when the same thing happens in schools through August and September when teacher positions remain vacant. Nurses and teachers have both been taken for granted and taken advantage of for years and now Nunavut is paying the price. Can’t fill either of those positions. The lack of respect those professions face is staggering. The facts are they can both earn more money elsewhere with a lot less hassle. Let’s hope this is a wake up call for the GN. The days of grinding through an endless supply of southern hires is over. And if the Ministers responsible think Arctic College’s ntep or nursing programs are going to solve the problem, they are simply delusional.
Arctic College is not a short term answer, but it is the only long term answer.
Nunavut needs to produce its own teachers, nurses and, yes, even doctors and engineers.
It needs to offer careers to these people. That includes a wage that supports a comfortable life and housing. Stop expecting Nunavut trained nurses to live in a room in their parent’s house.
GN employees have been without a contract for about 3 years.
Nunavut will have an election in about 3 months. Time to plan who will replace the current MLAs, Cabinet and Premier.
Question: why do you assume those teachers, nurses, doctors, and engineers would stay in Nunavut?
Given the shortages going on in those professions right now (and this is happening across North America as burnout from COVID is a real issue for medical professionals), combined with an aging southern population, there is and will continue to be a huge demand for those professionals down south. Higher pay, cheaper expenses and, let’s be honest, better services and living conditions, why would they stay here? Sure, some will, but based on what I’ve seen in other places across the country, many, if not most, will leave.
Some will, some won’t.
WE have to ensure that living and working conditions here are more attractive to the Nunavut-educated than are positions elsewhere. That includes having entry-level positions they can move into when they finish their schooling. That includes having a house they can raise a family in. That includes having a community that they feel comfortable in.
Wait, maybe ITK’s private credit-card ‘university’ is the answer. j/k
Don’t be fooled by your own limitation, have some imagination, think immigration.
Immigration is just more colonization, Jack. Surely you can not abide such a thing?
This is an obvious answer, but again Nunavut faces serious limitations. It is the go to answer that many other provinces have chosen, particularly for nurses, so again, we are competing against the rest of the country- not that they are having a great amount of luck.
Then there is Nunavut’s socio-cultural position – encouraging more immigration, even desperately needed highly-skilled immigration, would be a non-starter.
Just going to get a WHOLE lot worse. There was a big article on CBC today about nurses nationwide quitting in droves and the shortages in man provinces.
In short, competition between provinces for this very scarce resource is going to really increase, and we don’t have much to compete with at all. Prepare to pay much much more for less service.
Get ready for across-the-board cuts to all services over the next decade or two. Not just health centres and schools will be affected. The feds (Liberals) will have to dig themselves out of the financial hole they have dug for themselves and we will all be paying the price.
Healthcare is free in Canada.
You can’t really say that as the provinces vary so much – there is no such thing as “Canadian” healthcare, it is is very provincial. Spend some time dealing with OHIP, NB Medicare, and the QC system and tell me that they are the same for the end user.
Regardless, it still needs people to provide it and we can’t compete attracting them. We can’t even really compete with the rest of the north, let alone with somewhere like BC or Ontario.
I hope you’re just being sarcastic!
Canada has one of the most-expensive health care systems in the world. Maybe you’re not paying, but some taxpayer is, big time. And in exchange we get delayed or non-existent service and poor access, especially for northerners.
Nurses get no support from management. No education leave, no flexibility for vacations, and endless fights over accounting for hours work. Know many who just said ‘I can get paid more in Yellowknife and Whitehorse’. And so they go.
I have to laugh at the people suggesting Inuit can fill the gap. Sorry, but almost none take advantage of the nursing programs. They should, but they don’t.
It is intended that they are quitting. The hospitals are totally overrun with redundant covid protocols that even the simplest steps are unreachable in realistic time. 5 people asking the same questions in the same hallway, again in the office, cant breath, sick of mask rash. No wonder. I think the extremity that this has been taken to is desteoying education, health care, then northmart and mcdonalds are only ones able to make money. Build a drive to hrough or your business starves. Brea5h co2 all day in a box full of kids or loose your house. What is expected bere? It is a put up or shut up attitude thats for sure!
And wrt nurses, even before all this they are sent up with such entitlement that no wonder they anger patients. They spend more money trying to force people who dont want their help, or give tylenol to ones with actual problems. Spend the money on less nurses and better diagnostic equipment. Especially ones that fit kids.
This post is incoherent blather…
It’s because of comments like this they are leaving. Good luck, Mr. Entitled!
“cOvId IsNt ReAl LoL. mOrE pEoPLe DiE fRoM tHe FlU eVeRy YeAr”
You know that’s how your comment reads, right?
This is actually decolonization.
Yeah, all the colonizers and transient workers should go back home. They should take the evils of colonization with them, health care, schools, grocery stores, mines.. everything that is disturbing the IQ values as well as killing all the caribou. That way Nunavut can be independent and the crimes of the colonizers can be repatriated by everyone returning to their roots.
Don’t forget that you want to be a cashless society. Good luck with all that!!!
That means guns, ammunition, cell phones, GPS, Search and Rescue, fuel, snowmobiles.
Basically anything metal. Since the Inuit were a stone age culture before colonialism.
That won’t end in the deaths of thousands…. No, of course not!
I have been an agency nurse (now turned casual) and have worked all over Nunavut. Most recently I have worked exclusively in the Baffin region and can say I’ve never felt more supported by management as I have here. They are responsive and have been trying to fill summer contracts for months and months with little success. The reason I am casual is because there is simply no benefit to being a full time employee in Nunavut. You pay triple the costs in rent, pay all your own travel… It are these things why I remain casual and pick and choose my contracts for what works for me. I would like to see the NEU step up to the plate and advocate for nurses, but sadly, despite the massive amounts of union dues I pay, I never hear of them, and I never hear of them advocating for improvements for nurses. It’s time. It’s also time that the GN examine ways to retain staff in the communities.
Whenever I am working, it is mostly with other casual or agency staff. There are very few full-time staff remaining, and those that are are exhausted and will be packing their bags any month now. It is a sad time for health care in Nunavut and across Canada, but hopefully this will help improve things for the better as I’m not sure it can get any worse.
I echo the comments made here. I have to be honest and say I have seen huge improvements in support to nurses over the last couple of years by upper management by means of training, actually responding to emails, appreciation towards staff, and bringing in additional staff when possible. Years ago I didn’t even know who was managing the region except for the NIC at the health centre. I have worked in all 3 regions but now only work in the Baffin as it seems to be the only region to have their crap together. I was a full time nurse for 2 years and then converted to casual as being indeterminate was too costly and just wore down my mental and emotional health seeing trauma after trauma, being yelled at over and over, and twice being assaulted by intoxicated patients. As a female, being alone in the clinic after hours terrified me. It was also difficult working for several months while watching other staff work short 4-6 week contracts and achieve a better work life balance. I don’t know what the answer is as not everyone has the skill or background to work in Nunavut; and many just have no interest in remote health care. emergency departments in urban cities are closing due to a nursing shortage, and Nunavut is competing for the same nurses as all other provinces so it’s no wonder clinics are being closed and services are being eliminated. I think the days of filling positions with full time nurses are long gone and even if able to hire someone they will undoubtedly face the same challenges I did and wise up and realize there are no advtanges to being full time. I don’t know how true this is, but I also hear there is a hiring freeze due to there being limited or no houses in many communities… I can’t imagine this has helped the department of health either. They seem to face political road block after road block.
I head back to Nunavut next week to work for a month and am scared about what I will have to face. If it wasn’t for the joy I get caring for patients in the north, I don’t think I would return. Wish me luck.
You two are still among the chosen ones, then. Baffin on the surface looks great to newcomers, that’s what many of us thought when a management change happened around 2 years ago, but if you stick around long enough, reality will no doubt come for you, too. It’s one thing to say the right things when recruiting, it’s another to actually practice them, and to keep practicing them when things turn difficult, as they always do, and usually sooner than later.
Management also needs to have enough experience themselves to discern who are good employees and who are the ones feeding phoney PR right back at management, and that is lacking, which makes the workplace more difficult for everyone.
It’s been 5 years and I can only speak from my own experience, and from what I hear from most others. You get what you put in to it. Within the last 8 months I’ve been able to renew my CPR, renew my ACLS, attend an obstetrical emergency course which was unheard of previously (especially as a casual). I book contracts for 6 month periods and commit to them. So far no issues. No region is perfect and I am sure everyone tries their best under difficult circumstances. Upwards and onwards!
It’s a shame that nurse can even be “casual” If you work for years in a row in the same title are you really even “casual” anymore? “casual” is a complete sham
I work for the Government of Nunavut as a casual community health nurse for the last 6 years in the Kivalliq and Baffin regions. Compared to 6 years ago, the job has changed drastically. There is more violence against nurses, patients expect to be seen through out the night for non-urgent complaints (and if you attempt triaging them and deferring to morning once determined it is not urgent or emergent, your name ends up slathered all across Facebook and the community complains to their MLA or other), patients have more complex care needs, and so on. This is worse in some communities than others. I still love my job, and do not plan to leave at this point, but I know many colleagues who just are unable to keep putting themselves in such dangerous work environments where there is no respect or appreciation from patients, and where you work all day and all night for days and days on end.
We are in a union and pay high union dues (even on our overtime hours) but not once has the union ever engaged with me and I have never seen any campaigns or work done on behalf of nurses in Nunavut. I live in Newfoundland, and the union here is vocal, present in the media, and constantly fighting for improved treatment of nurses. Where is the NEU in all of this? Where is the push to form a separate nurses union? What are my union dues doing?
I have been to some communities that are so welcoming and warm, and I have been to others where the town is toxic and unwelcoming. I think every community should look inwards to see what can be done to help welcome all health staff and to ensure they are feeling welcomed, appreciated, and safe. Without nurses health centres will close, and emergencies and major injuries will not be tended to as they are now (not that nurses get any praise for the countless lives that are saved anyways— not that it’s praise they want, but basic courtesy and not getting punched or screamed at on the phone would be a good start).
Praying for all communities impacted by these closures, and my colleagues who will be working under such stressful situations. I wish I were able to help you this summer but COVID travel restrictions in my home province make it too challenging.
There is a separate Nurses’ Union/Local, which was formed several years back. However, they are still under the umbrella of the NEU, and their needs are rarely listened to. The problem is that no one in HR and the Union can comprehend that a Nurse has a different role and needs as any other position (eg., Admin assistant, clerk). They see the word ‘Nurse’ and they assume any nurse can fill any nursing position. Then there are the LPNs who are the backbone of the clinics and yet get less pay than anyone in IT, because they are such a small group and just dont have time or energy to fight with the GN anymore.
Nurses are going casual and/or leaving because management gives lip service but no concrete action. They are made to feel bad if they cannot take OT, and the number of hats they wear when a manager is out of the office is overwhelming. The GN DoH is sinking… and no one has a solution.
So Upper crust in Pang for GN
Want Nurses to get preapproved for Overtime!
Who does that?
We don’t have a crystal ball to see when we will get overtime
Keep it up GN soon you will have more than 8 Health centres affected
Stop with the Harrassement of Nurses
Unfortunately a lot of people in Nunavut have no idea of the training it takes to
become a competent nurse or school teacher in the communities.
Some people are very enthusiastic about decolonising and talk about Nunavut being an
independent nation ! !
Running the stores, housing, and social services will be quite the challenge for a lot of
Whatever happens, Good luck.
Too often the remedy to Nunavut’s ills is packaged under a reductive formula that things be ‘Inuit lead,’ implying an almost quasi-spiritual, sociological magic. Have you ever seen the pamphlets at HR? “You are special because you and an Inuk” (something along those lines).
Deceptive in its simplicity, this pays almost no attention to the hard work and, frankly, the acculturation needed to succeed in highly technical work. Too often we prepare the next generation for success by telling them their identity is the sufficient condition in which their success is ensured, the problem for them, and for the territory, is that it is not and it will never be.
meanwhile I’m a registered nurse from nunavut who works outside of nunavut because I’ve been trying for employment in Nunavut for two years
Tell us more. Why aren’t you in Nunavut right now? Is it a bias in hiring? Housing issues? Pay issues?
I would think that the GN would go out of their way to make sure that you were at the very top of any hiring list.
all those vacant positions none are posted. I’ve applied also for direct appointment, still nothing. I got hired in Inuvik in a heartbeat so that’s where I am now. Hopeful always for a job in Nunavut though
Nursing positions have been posted continually on https://gov.nu.ca/public-jobs page and at focused GN nursing recruiting page: https://www.nunavutnurses.ca/
Thanks for that. I’ve applied and still no word back. It’s a struggle
Interesting comment and replies. I am not Inuk, nor from Nunavut, but I have found the same issue. It has been my dream for some time to work on Baffin Island as I just think it is absolutely breathtaking and that it would be such a unique experience. Two years ago I applied for a full time CHN position. I emailed a manager or SHP acting as manager who was always posting about needs on Facebook. I received a generic reply that said my resume would be screened. I already had 4 years ER experience in an urban trauma centre and 4 years as a CHN. I waited 2 months and by then had 2 other job offers and not a peep from Baffin. So I went to the NWT. I still look regularly at the permanent jobs on the above mentioned sites. I noticed that recently there were 2 or 3 CHN postings and 2 or 3 SHP postings. But before that I checked weekly for close to six months and the only nursing jobs was a CHN consultant and a SHP in Baker lake. That baker lake job has been posted at least since March. It makes me wonder if there is even somebody regularly updating their website. This article says there are 163 vacant nursing positions and 39 of those are CHN. Where are these postings? I realize that I may be rare in wanting to work full-time, but if you’re looking for pension and benefits, there aren’t other options in Nunavut.
Another thing that I think Nunavut should consider before relying so much in agency is open job-share agreements. I have known people in the NWT in job-share positions for a decade and most of the time their other half is not filled and it is not their responsibility to find a partner. They call it a job share agreement, but in the NWT it is more or less a part-time scheduled rotation. I have never bothered to look into a job-share agreement in Nunavut because I want to be a permanent indeterminate employee with benefits and pension. I don’t want that to be jeopardized if my other half quits. And I don’t want to be forced to decide between becoming full-time or quitting.
Anyways, just my two cents. And ditto everything everyone mentioned about unions. It sounds exactly like the UNW. I will have paid them $4000 in 2021, and for what? For them to tell me that the gnwt can continue nepotistic promoting practices, and can continue to deny us vacation, and can continue to treat casuals like royalty while walking all over their burnt out permanent backbone of nurses, and continue to not advocate for adequate and healthy staffing levels and resources? I should become a charge nurse and keep the money in my own pocket.
If its any consolation, GN Human Resources does not discriminate against nurses. It treats applicants for all positions badly.
I’ve seen positions advertised for only a single week. When I applied, I was screened out. That left only 1 candidate. I was told I could appeal directly to the Minister, but he did not have to accept the appeal. I did, and he did not.
Other times , I’ve seen job postings stay up for months.
It often takes several months for HR to get around to a position after the deadline for applications.
Half the time the competition is cancelled. I gather that tends to happen if there is an applicant who appears to be more qualified than the preferred candidate.
In my previous position, most GN employees were members of the same family. HR, please explain that one.
Realistically, the main reason why there are so many vacancies is the total lack of leadership, especially in Baffin. Even before the switch to Bayshore, agencies had trouble filling the gaps in staffing, not in the least because of mistreatment from on high.
You’re an agency CHN? Cool, fly where I tell you, and when- it doesn’t matter what it says on your contract. Don’t want to extend your contract? Cool, you’re never working in Baffin again. Oh, you and two friends want a permenant job share based on 6 week rotations, so you can ‘raise your children’ and ‘see your loved ones’ ? Guess what, you’re not only never working in Baffin again, you’re going to be the subject of slander for even presenting the idea.
I’d say that about 50% of agency nurses do less than three contracts before throwing in the towel and deciding that the money isn’t worth the trouble. Bayshore is primarily recruiting from new nurses, so their retention will be terrible. Again, the amount of closures will increase until the GN returns to the table, hat in hand, and politely asks the four previous agencies to return. Even then, a lot of nurses have left those agencies to find work elsewhere.
Will the media or any of our hard working pundits dare broach the question of the Minister’s responsibility for this unprecedented failure?
Drastic, indeed… more concerning yet, are we just now waking up to the crossing of a historic inflection point?
It all depends on leadership…blind leading blind metaphor.
There is no leadership in Nunavut.
Lots of wana-be bosses, but no leaders.
Wana-be boss says: Make it so.
Leader says: Follow me.
Big time! Bosses hiding in their office scrolling through facebook all day. Only way we know they there because sometimes you can hear them screaming “is it friday yet?”
Mmmm, in some ways you are much better off to be a northerner. I can get seen for my heart condition much quicker as a northerner that I could when I lived in either Manitoba or Nova Scotia. I’ve heard other people say similar things.
Again, depends on the provincial system and the particular health care zone.
This is a misleading comment. You may be able to see ‘someone’ sooner, but are you seeing a heart specialist? What happens when you need serious care for your heart? Or worse, what if you have a heart attack? You’re on a medivac plane for hours. I don’t know, doesn’t sound like much of a trade off to me.
Not misleading at all, actually very accurate. Again, it depends where you are in the country. I’ve known people in Nova Scotia who waited 2 1/2 years to get their kids in to see a specialist at the IWK. In Cambridge people had their kids to specialist in about three months. Of course, the physician and nurse shortage in the Maritimes is legendary.
Again, experiences will vary depending on where you are in the country.
Me again, when I had a heart attack I went to my local “hospital” which is not a whole lot better than any community health Centre. Then I had an 11 hour drive to Halifax. Honestly, I could’ve got from Cambridge to Winnipeg faster.
I can’t speak for Ottawa, but whenever I’m referred to a cardiac specialist in Winnipeg I’ve been bumped to the front of the line ahead of Manitobans because I’m from the north. I can tell you, when Manitobans learn that it causes no small amount of resentment that they are being put in second place behind people from Nunavut. Do you think Nunavut people complain about outsiders “taking our jobs”? You should hear Manitobans complain about Nunavummiut “taking our healthcare”.
In short, I’m better off for healthcare in Nunavut than am in the Maritimes unless I lived in the metro Halifax region.
Even if you are having a heart attack, unless you are unconsciousness you can expect to wait. I think a lot of people grossly underestimate how long the average “very ill” person must wait in the emergency waiting room to see anyone.
An elderly friend having a a heart scare who in the past had 3 heart attacks, once soiled his pants waiting in emergency. Got help cleaning up, and continues to wait hours longer. The bar needed to be seen immediately is very high.
So many think it is easy to say we need more nurses and teacher’s, etc in the work force here. But we need to start at the roots first. Schooling right from grade 1 to 12 must be equivalent to the national standards. Make classes based on grade level, not age. Then when graduation comes around. All that do graduate can be accepted into southern institutions.
And get rid of the entitled to child tax, welfare mentality and a free house entitlement. That is the main reason no one has respect. One’s that live that life are the one’s with no respect for nurses/teacher’s, etc. Because they get everything handed to them, they don’t cherish all the hard work people do/accomplish.