Some Nunavut health centres could close for weeks because of staffing, gov’t says

The health centre in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, in late summer of 2022. It’s one of several community health centres in Nunavut that could be temporarily closed in the coming months. (David Gunn/CBC)

Health department warns of more closures in several communities this winter

The Nunavut government is warning of possible health centre closures or reduced services in several communities this winter, amid a shortage of health-care professionals.

In a news release on Friday, the department of Health said it expects the following health centres to be temporarily closed, some for weeks at a time. The release refers to seven affected communities, but only lists five:

  • Resolute Bay, Jan. 1 – 6 and Jan. 12 – 28, 2023.
  • Arctic Bay, Jan. 4 – 10, 2023.
  • Pond Inlet, Jan. 9 – 30, 2023.
  • Igloolik, Jan. 20 – Feb. 28, 2023.
  • Kinngait, Jan. 25 – Feb. 28, 2023.

The news release blames the closures on “difficulty in securing relief staff due to a national shortage of healthcare professionals.”

Similar closures have already happened in recent months in Nunavut, including in Kinngait, Pangnirtung, and Kimmirut. The Health Department had warned in June it was facing a 50 per cent vacancy rate among its permanent nursing staff and would close several health centres in the summer.

Friday’s news release says the department of Health has contingency plans to ensure urgent health services are still available in those communities affected by closures this winter. That could include a combination of virtual health, fly-in clinics and paramedic services. Paramedic services will be on site during temporary closures.

Residents urged to fill prescriptions before closures

People should continue to call their local health centre for care, the department said. Callers would be directed to virtual support services or may be automatically forwarded to other communities.

Staff will be available by phone to help fill prescriptions or arrange medical travel. Residents are advised to try to fill prescriptions before the scheduled closure of their local health centres.

Nunavut’s department of Family Services has also been closing some family wellness offices, also because of staffing shortages.

On Monday, that department said the Gjoa Haven family wellness offices are set to be closed from Dec. 7 to Jan 3. A similar closure was announced this month for Kugaaruk from Nov. 16 to Jan. 10. Cambridge Bay saw its family wellness office closed from Nov. 7 to Nov. 14.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at) 

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Election Spotlight—Health Care in Nunavik, Eye on the Arctic

Greenland: Greenland to reduce services amidst staffing shortages in health care system, Eye on the Arctic

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