Six community health centres on reduced or emergency service in Nunavut

Health centres in 1 Baffin community, 3 Kivalliq communities and 2 Kitikmeot communities affected

Nunavut Health Minister John Main says his department is working with the Department of Human Resources and Nunavut Employees Union to strengthen health-care staffing and help with retention. (File photo)

By Meral Jamal

Six of Nunavut’s community health centres are currently offering reduced or emergency services only.

Staff shortages in the territory’s health-care sector are creating a “heavy workload and greater likelihood of burnout,” according to Health Department spokesperson Chris Puglia.

“When there is an emergency that keeps numerous health centre staff on the job for extended periods of time, staff are required to have a rest period to ensure the safety and quality of care,” he said Wednesday in an email.

“Reduced services are based on these circumstances.”

According to data provided by the Department of Health, centres operating this month at reduced services — meaning some services are not available depending on staffing levels, and there may be a reduction in operating hours and staff available, especially for walk-ins — are:

  • Baker Lake: 11 out of 13 indeterminate positions are vacant but being filled with four casual employees;
  • Coral Harbour: five out of 10 indeterminate positions are vacant and being filled by four casual employees, up from one casual employee;
  • Kugaaruk: four out of six indeterminate positions are vacant but being filled with four casual employees, up from three.

Also according to health department data, health centres operating at emergency service, meaning only emergency cases are being dealt with although paramedics and medevacs remain available, are:

  • Gjoa Haven: seven out of 10 indeterminate positions are vacant but being filled with five casual employees;
  • Resolute Bay: two out of four indeterminate positions are vacant;
  • Whale Cove: five out of five indeterminate positions are vacant but some vacancies are being filled with two casual employees.

Meanwhile, some services at those centres continue to be offered virtually.

In March, 11 community health centres operated on reduced or emergency service.

Last month, Health Minister John Main said his department is working with the Department of Human Resources and Nunavut Employees Union to strengthen staffing and help with employee retention.

“We need the staff to have our health centres at full service so that we can provide the full suite of programs that communities need, and that is something that my department understands,” he said March 6 during the winter sitting of the legislative assembly in Iqaluit.

“We’ve brought in one package to improve our staffing at the community level, which includes a number of measures including looking at changing the hours of operation for health centres.”

The Department of Health uses a combination of virtual health and paramedic services to support residents of communities affected by centres offering reduced or emergency services, according to Puglia.

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This includes support staff who are available by phone to assist with services such as filling prescriptions and medical travel.

Physicians also schedule community visits when staffing is most critical and are available to support virtual walk-in clinics.

Core services such as medevac services and medical travel continue to operate as normal across the territory, said Puglia.


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(21) Comments:

  1. Posted by Name withheld on

    Hiring Managers need to be more welcoming to the nurse’s hired, if it may be indeterminate or casual’s.

    Directors in these regions need to trust and support the SHP’s in the communities to supervise the nurse’s and local staff without micromanaging the SHP’s.

  2. Posted by Education on

    Come on folks! We get offered free education, tell your kids or young family members these types of jobs are available! Go to college to and get ‘em jobs. Or this will continue, having to hire short term or casuals since there are locals without nursing degrees (not enough to fill the positions). Keep kids in school!

  3. Posted by Competence on

    Hmm, I guess management shouldn’t have pushed out most of their older, more experienced and long-serving nurses 4 years or so ago, because certain directors didn’t like people who knew more than them and who had more experience on how things should be done, and how it used to work better being around. Nunavut also has a history of treating their casual nurses like unwanted invaders, so there’s that. It’s also insane how incompetent directors who are overseeing this collapse keep flying up the management food chain, so that they can cause even more damage on an ever greater scale.

  4. Posted by Money Matters on

    Minister Main, how much are you paying per hour for a paramedic through an agency? Include accommodation, meals, etc.
    Minister Main, how much are you offering for a permanent nurse? Last I heard, Inuit nursing graduates were expected to continue living with their parents. Is that still the policy of your department?
    Since the GN seems interested in SCAB labour, have you considered recruiting in England, where the doctors have gone on strike.

  5. Posted by Mass Formation on

    No surprise when Nunavut Health Minister required nurses and other health workers to be covid vaccinated. He created Nunavut’s health worker shortage. His lack of research is concerning and worrisome why is still health minister.

    • Posted by Jfc on

      Nunavut’s health care worker shortage existed long before covid. Why don’t you do some research?

      • Posted by Mass Formation on

        Yes. So why rev up the speed so it does drive the train of the cliff?

    • Posted by Iqaluit Mom on

      A responsible nurse knows that vaccinations protect them and their patients. It is the ethical thing to do. The Nunavut nursing shortage existed well before Covid, mostly due to issues with senior management, and lack of respect for staff. Dedicated nurses who actually love the communities that they are in get hamstrung by their bosses who have no idea how communities work, and they leave.

      Stop blaming Covid vaccinations for issues that should have been fixed decades ago.

  6. Posted by Not surprised on

    That number will likely double by summer. Who wants to be indeterminate when your annual gets denied due to staffing shortages?

  7. Posted by Factors to be Looked At on

    Hostile and violent work conditions, incompetent HR and employees responsible for handling pay, the travel and isolation, lack of respect and community welcoming, weather and temperature, no accountability or transparency, the nature of what you are seeing as a healthcare professional: abused children, recurring domestic assaults, etc
    These factors combined with a plethora of others will continue to present problems for the healthcare system of NU. Having John Main yelling and speaking condescendingly to the world at the Pressers, also, does not help.

    • Posted by Mit on

      If ur a nurse don’t expect any help or results from Hr, Finance or a leave and attendance clerk they are too busy scrolling Facebook. No wonder nobody wanna be a nurse. Best to just email your DM directly if you want results.

      • Posted by John WP Murphy on

        Yes Mit and let’s not forget the verbal and sometimes physical abuse that the medical staff receive regularly both on Facebook and at the clinics.

      • Posted by Name withheld on

        The issue is, the nurses aren’t under the DM supervision. Your best bet is to contact your manager, if that fails, contact your union rep, or representative.

        Alot of people don’t understand who they fall under, what steps to take if for whatever reasons they feel they aren’t being treated fairly, etc. Your regular or OT pay you normally would go to your pay officer, for your leave credits, lieu time, sick leave, etc goes to HR.

        Mistreatment, threats, should be directed to your ATIPP person.

        Why aren’t these relayed to you when you get on board?

        • Posted by Do you even live here? on

          Have you ever tried to follow up on why you haven’t been paid the OT in 6 weeks? Have you ever gotten back a copy of an approve shift differential sheet filed with Health HR? It is impossible. If you dare say grievance you’ll be quiet fired by managers who suddenly put you on the crap list for shifts, put you last for vacation approval or deny it altogether. Most put up with this 6-24 months and go elsewhere for the same or now better pay (thanks NEU) and not the same headaches.

          • Posted by Name Withheld on

            Go speak to your Employee Relations for the items you mentioned, also to your Attip officer . There is a reason why these two positions exist .

            Not speaking out against your manager’s will not get anywhere. You and the rest will continue to be bullied until you speak out .

            If you haven’t received your OT pay for the past whatever weeks and you have follow up with the payroll officer; go to their manager, director .

            For the differential sheet, I suggest you contact the HR Manager, Director if you aren’t getting anywhere with the person you contacted .

            No one is above or can go against what is written in the collection agreement. No one should ever experience bullying in a work place

        • Posted by Iqaluit Mom on

          Have you ever tried to complain to a manager in Health? i know nurses who have, and they get nowhere. Managers dont care about patients, they care about the bottom line and padding up their resumes. I know a staff member who quit because she was told she was ‘helping the patients too much’ and was told to stop recommending reaching out to patient relations.

          And when they go higher up the chain, the passive aggressive retaliation and blacklisting starts. The NEU cannot help because they do not understand how nursing schedules and ethics works. So the lesson passed on? Dont complain otherwise your work life will be miserable.

  8. Posted by Former SHP on

    I started casual and fell in love with Nunavut. In 2021 when offered indeterminate as SHP, I was ecstatic and moved my entire life to Nunavut. The job was AWESOME under my first Director (who was a trusted mentor in my view). After he got promoted, the new Directors who took over REALLY did not like me. Why? Maybe cause I was more educated, questioned things, idk. Anyway soon became clear they were micromanagement every move I made and looking for any and all errors. The stress put me on stress leave, then they just dismissed me on sick leave and left me scrambling to get a home, etc. That’s why the shortage exists. You just don’t treat people like that.

  9. Posted by hermann kliest on

    If this Mr. Minister have tackle this from day one, this situation would have been in much better shape as it is today, but to be fair; past Health Minsters and GN in general are weak and they should start thinking outside the box of their DMs. DMs are the real deals here… elected are just pawns of GN machinery. When was the last time you’ve heard or seen Ministers making announcements without pre-approved speaking notes?

    • Posted by John WP Murphy on

      Who is the DM in Health these days ?

  10. Posted by Umingmak on

    Main needs to be removed from this role. He’s a nice guy, but he’s horribly incompetent.

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